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Professor offers community suicide intervention workshop

Posted: Thursday, September 09, 2010

Hospice and Home Care of Juneau, or HHCJ, sponsored a public workshop Wednesday at Centennial Hall on the subject of suicide.

Psychology professor and author Bob Baugher of Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash., lent his expertise on intervention and loss.

"I prefer the term intervention more than prevention. Intervention indicates more dealing with it before it happens (and) how to help survivors if it does," he said. "Intervention is kind of 'in the moment.'"

Topics covered included clues and warning signs, emotional and thought patterns, how to intervene, depression and coping with loss.

Baugher said among the most important points brought up were evaluating behaviors and knowing what resources are available to help. He also said being a good listener to those who may be suicidal is vital.

Alcohol is dangerous in these situations because it causes people to lower their inhibitions, he added. An additional danger comes if a person contemplating suicide owns firearms, he said.

Baugher is very familiar with this subject. He's been teaching psychology for more than 30 years, including what he refers to as a "death and life class." He also teaches a weekend suicide intervention workshop at his college every quarter.

He co-authored the book "After Suicide Loss: Coping With Your Grief" with psychologist Jack Jordan. He has numerous other publications dealing with the subject.

The workshop drew a crowd of more than 125.

HHCJ volunteer coordinator Tammy Antoniadis said the topic is especially relevant here due to Alaska's persistently high suicide rates.

According to the state's Bureau of Vital Statistics, the 2009 rate was 20.2 suicides per 100,000 people. Baugher said he's aware of the state's consistent ranking among the nation's highest for suicides, particularly with young men.

Baugher said was planning a trip to Alaska and e-mailed agencies to offer free presentations on grief while he was here.

"Suicide isn't our mission, but we hold grief groups twice a year. There's frequently survivors there so we felt it was an important topic," Antoniadis said.

The workshop's timing is appropriate. This week happens to be National Suicide Prevention Week, with Friday being World Suicide Prevention Day.

Antoniadis said this is a coincidence as the event was arranged before she was aware of this.

Baugher's Juneau workshop is scheduled to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Sept. 12, and again at 11 a.m. Sept. 13 on GCI channel 15.

Baugher and Antoniadis both said it is important to know available resources if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. They recommend calling the Alaska Careline at 1-877-266-4357, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium at 1-877-294-0074, or 211 for service information.

Websites include www. juneausuicideprevention.org and www.juneaumentalhealth.org.

Antoniadis said to contact the HHCJ at 463-6111 to inquire when the next grief group meets or to get copies of Baugher's workshop outline.

• Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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