Every day, 132 people die by suicide in the United States. The Institute of Living (IOL) is hoping to shed light on this and other troubling statistics during its annual World Suicide Prevention Day conference.
This year, the conference will be web-based, held during National Suicide Prevention Week on Wednesday, Sept. 9, from 8:30 am to noon. It will mark the eighth World Suicide Prevention Day conference hosted by the IOL.
“Many people are impacted by suicide, and yet this topic is routinely forced into the shadows,” said Laura Majidian, case worker and peer coordinator of the IOL’s Family Resource Center. “This prevents facts and important information from being shared and deprives those affected from being seen and connected to others.”
This year’s speaker is Victor Armstrong, director of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services. Armstrong will be giving two presentations, “Perception is Everything” and “Whole Person Care for Caregivers.” The presentations will focus on implicit bias that exists in behavioral health and disproportionately affects communities of color as well as the rapidly increasing suicide rates in the black community.
“We are fortunate to have Victor Armstrong as our presenter this year,” said Dr. John Santopietro, physician-in-chief of the Behavioral Health Network. “Suicide in and of itself is a major issue, and in the time of a pandemic plus a financial crisis and a societal crisis, we can expect that there will be an increase. There are some concerning trends in suicide rates, especially in populations of color in the last several years. To have Armstrong present on diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to mental health is extraordinary.”
Armstrong was involved in the development of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiative that has been ongoing in the Behavioral Health Network.
The DEI Steering Committee at the BHN includes: Kimesha C. Morris, LCSW, director of social work and clinical supervisor of the Family Resource Center at the IOL; Mara DeMaio, PhD, director, Child and Adolescent Services; IOL, Dana Shagan, PsyD, program manager, Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program, IOL; Aieyat Zalzala, PhD, licensed counseling psychologist, IOL; Mui Mui Hin-McCormick, MS, LMFT, clinical director of adult residential services, Rushford; Kimaira Bernardini, LPC, ADS, Clinician III, Rushford; Michelle Voegtle, M.Ed, LPC, clinical program manager, Rushford; Starlin Astacio, LMFT, psychiatric clinician, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital; and regularly invited guest/consultant Sarah Lewis, MPH, vice president, Health Equity for Hartford HealthCare. The committee has been working diligently to bring learning opportunities and awareness to the BHN.
“As we strive to live up to our Hartford HealthCare mission to improve the health and healing of the people and communities we serve, we must understand the impact of race and bias in our communities, our institutions and ourselves,” said Dr. Shagan. “Only by educating ourselves and looking in the mirror to uncover our blind spots can we hope to meaningfully engage members of our communities of color and reduce the negative outcomes of health inequity, including suicide.”
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, the BHN has a 24/7 hotline with clinicians who can help. Call 833.621.0600.
The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling 1.888.984.2408.
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