Lawmaker addresses suicide prevention in schools

House Bill 198, the Jason Flatt Act-Georgia, was offered by Representative Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) and recently passed by unanimous vote in the Georgia House of Representatives.

The bill is aimed at preventing suicide among Georgia’s school-aged population. Suicide ranks only behind unintentional injury as the leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds. If enacted, the bill requires suicide awareness and prevention training for all certified education personnel in Georgia’s public schools. It also provides for a collaborative effort between the Georgia Department of Education and DBHDD, whereby DBHDD will help to develop a list of approved training materials to be used by school systems.

To learn about Jason Flatt, the namesake of the bill, visit the Jason Foundation website.

Recovery and suicide prevention in the spotlight at the Capitol on Thursday

On February 5, advocates will meet with legislators at the Capitol for both Addiction Recovery Awareness Day and Suicide Prevention Day.

The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA) is sponsoring Addiction Recovery Awareness Day with the message of “spreading hope through recovery.” Training will be provided on how to advocate the council’s goal of increasing recovery opportunities for those in recovery to work and live in their communities. The day’s events will culminate with a rally inside the Capitol on the south steps.

Advocates seeking to promote suicide prevention awareness will also be gathering to meet with the governor and legislators. DBHDD Commissioner Frank Berry and Representative Katie Dempsey are two of the featured speakers on the agenda. Georgia Suicide Prevention Information Network, the program’s sponsor, will offer training on how to voice the organization’s support for legislation to decrease suicide among youth.

Register for Addiction Recovery Awareness Day

Register for Suicide Prevention Day

Suicide prevention is everyone’s business

The recent death by suicide of actor Robin Williams has drawn national attention to the struggles with mental health that many people face every day. In Georgia, suicide claims more lives than homicide or automobile accidents. More than eleven hundred Georgians took their lives in 2011.

DBHDD and our partners statewide recognize that effective prevention strategies require a multifaceted approach. “To bring down the numbers of suicides and attempts in a community, you need to have multiple initiatives going on at the same time,” said Sally vander Straeten, DBHDD’s suicide prevention coordinator. Instead of looking at individual suicide prevention strategies, we focus on building suicide-safer communities and schools through outreach and training, as outlined by the Georgia Suicide Prevention Information Network.


DBHDD introduced the suicide-safer campus initiative to over 40 colleges and universities at the 5th annual Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention College Conference last spring, but Savannah State University is already ahead of the curve.

Jacqueline Awe, who is director of student development for the university, says that the school’s counseling center regularly holds group sessions, workshops and trainings. “We want to encourage students to pursue healthy, help-seeking behaviors,” she says.

Awe’s staff includes two full-time counselors. They offer crisis response, counseling and mental health screening, but a large part of the school’s suicide prevention efforts are carried out by the students themselves. Awe has five student interns this year. They receive gatekeeper training, which teaches how to identify signs and suicide risk factors. DBHDD brought this training model to the campus in 2010. Gatekeepers also learn how to approach someone who exhibits these traits and get them to help.

In 2010, the counseling center started a prevention campaign called, “Help is not a bad, four-letter word.” Activities and information sessions focused on reducing the stigma of seeking help for mental health issues. The most recent effort, “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” got its name from a popular YouTube video. Student interns conducted workshops and lectures, in classrooms, particularly for freshmen. The sessions provided instruction on how to be an effective bystander by supporting peers and getting involved when someone needs help. “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business,” Awe says. “Even if you think you are not affected, you could be the one who saves someone’s life by making it your business and displaying some level of concern.”

The interns lead prevention efforts all over the campus. Awe stresses the importance of using multiple prevention strategies. “You can’t do one-hit-wonders because everyone takes in information differently,” she says. “We have different modalities, including trainings, workshops, outreach, online college health screening, online Kognito gatekeeper training to help faculty and staff learn how to respond to students in distress, writing and PSA competitions and a weekly radio show, which students cohost.”

The show airs on Savannah State’s radio station from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Fridays and focuses on behavioral health and wellness. On the first Friday of each month, the student hosts partner with NAMI Savannah to bring in experts on mental health from the surrounding community. The show streams live on WHCJ 90.3 FM.

To learn more about prevention efforts at Savannah State University, contact the counseling center. For information on DBHDD’s suicide prevention program, visit our website.

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DBHDD and BHL offer support and mental health counseling after death of Robin Williams

The comedy and personality of Robin Williams were a hallmark of a generation. His warm smile and sense of humor was an inspiration for many throughout the last four decades. His death by suicide at age 63 is a stunning reminder that millions of Americans fight against depression and mental illness every day.

Following Williams’ death, Wendy Schneider and Allison Trammell of Behavioral Health Link, which provides DBHDD’s GCAL service, participated in a helpline hosted by 11Alive. Trammell, who is BHL’s chief of quality management, and Schneider, chief clinical officer, joined other behavioral health experts to answer questions about depression and offer resources for counseling and support.

GCAL Robin Williams 8.20.14

Suicide claims more than 38,000 American lives each year. For many experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts, the battle can seem very lonely. You are not alone. DBHDD offers free, 24/7 access to mental health counseling through our partner Behavioral Health Link. If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line today: 800-715-4225.