JACKSON, Miss.—A federal grant is allowing the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Mississippi State University (MSU) to offer training focused on youth suicide prevention, and crucially making it available online to be accessed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Since last year, The Alliance Project training has taught thousands of parents and caregivers, educators, mental health professionals, and others in Mississippi on how to identify when a person is in distress, make a connection with that person, and learn how to help them. A special edition of this training, created by MSU Department of Psychology staff, is now available online, allowing access when so many people and professions are practicing social distancing to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“This training is designed to help you learn how to reach out to those who need help despite our need to keep a distance,” said Rachel-Clair Franklin, LPC-S, with the MSU Department of Psychology. “We have tailored our normal, in-person training to fit the unique times we are living in.”
The training is the result of the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant made available in 2019 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant called for recipients to utilize a gatekeeper training for suicide prevention. Gatekeepers are anyone who can “open the gate” to help another person find support and services. MSU is acting as a subgrantee to provide The Alliance Project gatekeeper training.
“Gatekeepers include family members, friends, acquaintances, partners, members of the community – anyone who can help and support another person,” said Ja’Quila Newsome, Director of Suicide Prevention at DMH. “We are all gatekeepers and we play an important role in preventing suicide just by recognizing the signs and responding to them immediately.”
Common warning signs of suicide include talking, thinking, or writing about suicide, talking about feeling worthless or hopeless, a loss of interest in activities one usually enjoys, or other significant changes in someone’s typical behavior. In Mississippi, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 10-24 years old.
The training is now online and available on YouTube on the page of Dr. Michael Nadorff, with the MSU Department of Psychology, and on the DMH Facebook page. It is titled “The Alliance Project Training: Suicide Prevention During COVID-19.”
“During this time, I think so many of us want to know how to help and still stay safe,” Dr. Nadorff said. “The good news is that research tells us even just small interventions, like checking in with someone and expressing our concern, can have a huge impact.”
Dr. Nadorff also noted that even during the current pandemic, a term often used – social distancing – does not really mean that people can’t be social with their friends and families.
“Social distancing does not mean we should be disconnected,” he said. “This is a great time to reach out to your friends and loved ones, particularly those who may be struggling, as they may not reach out to you otherwise.”
His colleagues, Dr. Emily Stafford and Rachel-Clair Franklin, LPC-S, said that it is important for people to check on those they love during stressful times, and that it is also okay for people to reach out for help if they are struggling.
“The support numbers are still there, and many providers are now providing telehealth,” Franklin said. “Help is still available.”
Help is Available
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990, and you may text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. The Crisis Text Line can connect someone with a crisis counselor by texting HOME to 741741. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
The DMH Helpline will remain staffed at all times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call 1-877-210-8513 for information about services or supports near you. Additional resources for Mississippians are located at www.mentalhealthms.com and www.standupms.org.
DMH is supporting a better tomorrow by making a difference in the lives of Mississippians with mental illness, substance use disorders and intellectual or developmental disabilities one person at a time