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Program on suicide, mental health

Presentation planned at Waupaca High School

By Angie Landsverk


“Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness” is the title of a talk being presented twice on Monday, Sept. 19, at Waupaca High School.

Chris Prochut, a mental health awareness advocate and law enforcement suicide prevention trainer, will speak from 2:30-4 p.m. and also at 6 p.m., in the Waupaca High School Performing Arts Center.

Both talks will be free and open to the public.

The afternoon talk will be geared toward law enforcement and armed forces personnel.

It will focus on:
• Discussing suicide and depression warning signs, with a focus unique to police behaviors.

• Identifying police department policies which create barriers to officers seeking help.

• Describing special resources for police officers in crisis.

• Discussing the unique mental health stigma challenges faced in law enforcement.

The talks are being sponsored by the Waupaca County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The coalition, which is made up of county community members, formed in December 2011.

This is the third consecutive year the coalition is sponsoring a talk and fifth year it is sponsoring community awareness in some manner.

“We wanted to target law enforcement and the armed forces because there is such a stigma,” said Elissa Stults, a local licensed marriage and family therapist whose role at Ministry Medical Group is a behavioral health specialist.

Stults, a member of the coalition, is among those who heard Prochut speak last April at the Prevent Suicide Wisconsin Annual Conference, in Stevens Point.

Resources will be available about local mental health treatment, she said.

Veteran suicide statistics from 2014 show that in that year, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day.

Of those 20 veterans, six were users of United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services.

In 2014, veterans made up 8.5 percent of the U.S. population and accounted for 18 percent of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults.

There is also continued evidence about the high burden of suicide among middle-aged and older adult veterans.

In 2014, about 65 percent of all veterans who died from suicide were 50 or older.

The risk for suicide was 21 percent higher among veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adults and was 18 percent higher among male veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult males.

It found the risk for suicide was 2.4 times higher among female veterans when compared to U.S. civilian adult females.

The VA has examined more than 50 million veteran records, from 1979 to 2014, from every state in the nation.

The new data about veteran suicides will inform its Suicide Prevention programs and policies.

Prochut partnered with the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Death Response Team in 2011 to conduct suicide prevention training throughout the state.

During the last five years, he has presented to more than 5,000 law enforcement officers across the United States and Canada about the topics of suicide and depression warning signs, medication myths and department policy revisions.

His evening talk will be geared toward the general public and community.

“I think he is articulate about internal struggles with mental health and the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that lead to a possible suicide. He gives insight on prevention and what is actually helpful for someone suffering. He relates well to audiences and is a must see for anyone interested in mental health issues,” said Anne Collins Reed, who is the Waupaca School District’s social worker.

Sue Woodliff, the district’s school nurse, said, “Getting mental health help is OK. It’s no different than diabetes, asthma, cancer. It’s trying to help people understand this is the same. It is a physical illness. You can’t just get over it.”

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