The Partnership for a Drug Free Hall will host its second community suicide prevention workshop on May 5. The free in-person event at Flowery Branch High School will start at 6:30 p.m., and will feature motivational speaker Kevin Hines and a free QRP institute training. Hines’ presentation will also be livestreamed.
Hines will open up about his suicide attempt in 2000 when he jumped off the Golden State Bridge. According to a press release from the Partnership for a Drug Free Hall, Hines floated on a sea lion until he was rescued by the Coast Guard.
Tamara Etterling, director of student services for the Hall County School District, said that she wanted the event to focus on hope and resilience.
“Oftentimes in suicide prevention, we focus on depression and the doom and gloom,” Etterling said. “Which of course, [depression] is a very serious topic, but what the message needs to be about is that there is hope and strength and help. It's really our intent and purpose to bring awareness to mental health that is not a stigma. It's not something to be embarrassed about.”
After Hines’ speech, there will be a QPR Institute training to show attendees how to handle a mental health crisis.
QPR stands for “question, persuade and refer.” Etterling compared QPR training to CPR, because QPR training can increase the chance of survival for someone suffering a mental health crisis.
“There's three steps that we take people through in order to be able to recognize [suicide],” Etterling said. “You recognize and say ‘Are you considering hurting yourself? Do you have a plan?’ And that it's ok not to be ok.”
If Hall County students are struggling with their mental health, they are paired up with a mental services provider. The mental services provider also helps students navigate barriers, like insurance, that may impede their access to treatment.
That provider will then connect students to a counselor at Laurelwood, a non-profit inpatient behavioral health facility operated by Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
“When our students transition back to school, because obviously we want our students to get back to “well,” then we have a plan and a transition meeting to get our students back in and support them,” Etterling said.
Flowery Branch High School will also host the community suicide prevention workshop earlier in the school day. The lunchtime session will follow the same structure as the evening session, but it will only be open to Hall County students.
“We're going to have students from Flowery Branch High School, and then a select few students from each high school will be joining us in-person,” Etterling said. “They'll come over to Flowery Branch High School, and then our technology department is going to livestream it to the rest of our middle schools and high schools.”
The Hall County School District has been able to provide more access to mental health resources after they received the Project AWARE grant two years ago. This program is run through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and partners schools with state mental health agencies and three local education agencies.
“We're blessed to [have] been able given the vision and mission of our superintendent several years ago to know that we're not going to increase academics if we don't address the mental health of our students,” Etterling said. “We don't want them just to have 23 credits, we want them to have skills for resiliency.”