Suicide prevention summits plan to educate communities

Published 3:54 pm Saturday, April 9, 2011

For the first time, regional suicide prevention summits will be held in a variety of Virginia cities this spring, featuring information on suicides in each region, prevention education and training, how suicide affects the community and other topics.

The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is partnering with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program to host the summits that will take place seven cities in May and June.

The final summit will be held June 15 in Hampton.

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Nicole Rada, a project specialist with Partnership for People with Disabilities, said the event was developed after several agencies for suicide prevention, such as the Department of Behavioral Health, began work with other organizations to plan initiatives to prevent suicide.

The groups decided to hold the summits to educate attendees on suicide prevention and support local activities, she said. Events were planned in cities in five regions of Virginia to ensure citizens in each area would have a chance to attend.

“People attending can learn about how suicide is impacting their community, resources available to them to address suicide and how to work with fellow community members to assess their region’s suicide prevention needs and create action plans,” Rada said.

There will be a variety of presentations at the summits that will cover topics such as suicide data in the region, prevention education, the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, and the needs of veterans and the services available to them.

“Attendees can learn about resources for veterans with combat stress and about the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program established for veterans and their families with those issues,” Rada said.

Speakers for the Hampton summit include Marc Leslie of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; Christina Benton, a suicide prevention manager at the Virginia Department of Health; Thea Lawton, a coordinator for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program; and Greg Brittingham of the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Also at the Hampton event, Christy Letsom of the Planning Council will be sharing a survivor’s story.

“We hope that the summits will be the first step for participants to begin to address the suicide prevention needs of their region as a community,” Rada said.

The event costs $15 per person, and registration is required to attend.

Registration for the events opens April 11. Those hoping to attend can visit to register online or gather more information.