Appendix 2 - Voices from the Field—Lived Experience and Provider Perspectives

When you are feeling suicidal, the thought of talking about it seems so overwhelmingly scary. How will the person you decide to talk to react? Will they judge you? Will they freak out? Will they even care at all? For all you know, you might end up having to go to the hospital against your will if you even hint at ever feeling suicidal. It almost seems safer to not say anything at all. All of that changes when you are in a space with other people who’ve experienced feeling suicidal and are able (and encouraged) to speak about it freely and openly. When you are in a hard space, the most healing thing in the world can be to have someone else say, “Me too.” That is the benefit of peer support groups like Alternatives to Suicide and others that are specifically intended for people who’ve experienced, or are currently struggling with, suicidal thoughts.

– Val N., CPS; Iris Place Assistant Director, NAMI Fox Valley

It is important that Wisconsin take a stronger stand in preventing suicide, which must include reducing the stigma of getting help, as well as addressing the means by which suicide is completed. With a greater emphasis on these factors, as well as those listed in the report, Wisconsin will be able to reduce the devastating amount of suicides that occur in our state. As a son of a mother who “committed suicide with a gun, I encourage people to read the report and help to get the methods listed within implemented so fewer families and communities ever have to endure my never-ending nightmare.

– Khary Penebaker, A Mother’s Son, Suicide Loss Survivor

Diverse & Resilient’s (D&R’s) work focuses on four key areas: sexual health, cultivating leaders, substance use, and anti-violence. Our goal is to reduce LGBTQ health disparities (including suicide) rooted in anti-LGBTQ discrimination and to increase the safety, support, and well-being of LGBTQ people. Through services such as STI/HIV testing, LGBTQ inclusive evidence-based curriculum implementation, and a statewide LGBTQ Resource Line, D&R increases protective factors for LGBTQ people and builds a future in which LGBTQ people in Wisconsin thrive, living healthy, satisfying lives in safe, supportive communities.

– Kristen Ramirez, Diverse & Resilient

After experiencing the loss of six patients to suicide that touched our behavioral health services, Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center (ASMMC) and the Aurora Sheboygan Market desired to ‘find a better way.’ Our research led us to the nationally-recognized model of quality improvement called Zero Suicide. With minimal resources, ASMMC committed to implement universal screening, safely manage care transitions, and enhance a continuum of care across settings, providing evidence-based, optimal care for patients at risk for suicide. In our work, there have been many accomplishments within our healthcare system, but the personal stories are the ones that bring the most meaning and reward. Shortly after training one of our medical-surgical units in QPR, the manager reached out and shared this story, “One of my CNAs was assisting with a post-surgical admission. The patient was in a lot of pain and made comments about wishing she were dead. The CNA began to probe further and asked if the patient had a plan to end her life currently or in the past. The patient responded that she had, and the CNA immediately asked for the support of the nurse to assess more fully. When they were putting the safe environment precautions into place, they discovered that the patient had a bottle of narcotics with her in the bed that she had brought in from home that she intended to overdose on.” The manager went on to say, “I was so impressed that my CNA was integral in identifying this risk. It proves we are moving in the right direction. In the past, the CNAs never would have felt comfortable asking the question of suicide.”

– Advocate Aurora Health, Sheboygan

Kathleen Rumsey, Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services—Public Health, shared outreach strategies for training in Question Persuade Refer (QPR):

  • Faith Community—Various individual churches have invited us to teach their staff. More recently we reached out to the organized group of faith leaders in the community. They hosted a luncheon for pastors and others to come together for QPR training. At that luncheon, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor asked us to present to a regional meeting of Evangelical Lutheran pastors.
  • Business Community—We had some good connections with the industrial park. A couple factories asked us to come in and teach QPR to their supervisor/managers in the hour around the shift transition. Different connection points worked at different facilities; for some it was the CEO, while for others, it was the HR or Employee Assistance Program person.
  • School, Afterschool, and Human Services—Staff in these areas have always been open and receptive. We presented to all four grade levels at two of our three schools a few years ago and have been teaching it to freshmen every year since. Last year we were able to get our third school district on board and taught it to the school (students and staff); this year we will teach it to the freshmen. Each school rotates through for a refresher/teaching for the teachers every three years or so. There is similar rotation of refresher and teaching of staff in the afterschool and human services areas.
  • Farmers—We are working on partnering with farmers’ organizations.
  • Law Enforcement—Law enforcement personnel have typically had some training around suicide prevention, but we can come in to provide refresher trainings. When we’ve offered it to law enforcement, we also try to involve other emergency personnel, such as office workers in law enforcement, jail staff, fire (including volunteers), emergency medical services, and others.