September is National Suicide Prevention Month

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Carri Raynor and Christina Breen of the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County
Carri Raynor and Christina Breen of the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, but for the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Chautauqua County, raising awareness and equipping our community with prevention strategies happens year round. The Alliance is a collaborative group of professionals that include instrumental support from the Chautauqua Tapestry Resilience Initiative and the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene.

Every year, the Alliance coordinates 14 community engagement events that raise awareness, promote local and national mental health resources, and shares hopeful messages. Carri Raynor, Coordinator of the Alliance, who leads these events says, “Getting the community together to share stories of hope and to find new resources to increase our mental wellness is for everyone, not just those who are struggling. Because we do a variety of events, we can reach many diverse pockets of the community.”

The Alliance recently distributed 900 resource bags to welcome new students at Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia. “These bags are filled with many local resources for young people to use while transitioning into this new journey. We want to make sure the students know how important they are and that taking care of their mental health should be a top priority.”

Carri works hard to reduce stigma around suicide, and fosters healing through her lived experience as a loss survivor. Through her journey, she facilitates a Survivors of Suicide Loss support group every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 5:30 – 7pm at The Chautauqua Center in Jamestown.

Among the community awareness initiatives, the Alliance coordinates a variety of suicide prevention and mental health trainings. One of those, is Sources of Strength (Sources), a school based best practice suicide prevention and mental wellness project. Christina Breen, Project Coordinator and Trainer for Chautauqua Tapestry, reminds us that, “we all deserve a life full of joy despite our hardships. Sources works to validate those hard experiences we face as adults and students, but then shifts the conversation towards exploring the supports we can tap into, to navigate those up’s and down’s.”

Sources uses a framework of centering story telling around 8 protective factors that can be found and explored in everyone’s life. Christina says, “These protective factors look different for everyone and range from healthy activities to help us manage big emotions like going to therapy, to leaning on our friends and chosen family when we need it. We explore the idea of generosity and how healing it can be to give a part of ourselves, especially if we are struggling.”

Christina coordinates the implementation of this project and has trained many districts within the County. “Training our educators and students is an incredibly powerful and protective tool to build resiliency in our community. During trainings, we harness the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms and culture within the school population. The mission of Sources is to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and building connections between peers and caring adults.” Christina speaks authentically about her life experiences, and is passionate about promoting strategies to nurture our mental health and overall wellbeing.
Chautauqua County Sources of Strength is expanding into neighboring counties and is now a service that schools can purchase through Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES. Christina says, “This partnership is vital to the sustainability of this project and we are finalizing a strategic plan to recruit additional trainers and regional districts.”
We all can help to prevent suicide. To learn more about local prevention efforts, events, trainings, and to find ways to help, visit PreventSuicideCHQ.com or email RaynorC@chqgov.com and BreenC@chqgov.com. Follow the Suicide Prevention Alliance on Facebook and Instagram for additional updates and positive messaging on mental health, hope and healing.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text line 741-741. Both are free and confidential. You will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For Mobile Crisis Services in Chautauqua County, please call 1-800-724-0461, Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. and 24 hours a day on weekends and holidays.