“Assessing and Responding to Suicide Threat”

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and our area is not immune. Many of our friends and families have been touched by the lasting effects of suicide that go beyond the person who ends his or her life.

Penn Highlands Healthcare in conjunction with the Clearfield-Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team is hosting “Assessing and Responding to Suicide Threat” from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2, in the Central Resource Center, 204 Hospital Ave., DuBois.

This program is free to attend and dinner is provided. However, registration is required by Friday, April 27, to 814-375-3428.

The speaker for the evening will be John W. Lobb, PhD, a licensed psychologist with more than 40 years of clinical practice. He is currently the clinical supervisor of Penn Highlands DuBois Outpatient Behavioral Health Department where he provides a range of clinical services.

“There are nearly four deaths by suicide for every one death by homicide, and three deaths by suicide for every one by AIDS/HIV,” Lobb said. “For every death by suicide, there are as many as 100-200 attempts. During any given year, nearly 4 percent of the population experiences thoughts of suicide.” That’s a lot.

“The causes of suicide are complex, and the choice to engage in suicidal behavior is the result of many factors. The goal of suicide prevention is to reduce the factors that increase risk and increase factors that promote resilience,” Lobb said.

“The latter may include focusing on why suicide is not the best option and to identify reasons to hang on to life. Without a doubt, suicide is a serious public health problem that results in families, friends and communities becoming secondary casualties to a suicide,” he said.

“If someone is talking about suicide, they are at risk,” Lobb said. “People who frequently contemplate putting themselves out of their misery attempt suicide often, but people who impulsively attempt suicide tend to be more successful.”

All genders and ages are at risk. “Adolescents and female adults attempt suicide more frequently than adult males, but men are more likely to die by suicide,” Lobb said. “People who have a substance abuse problem and/or a mood disorder have an increased potential to attempt and potentially die by suicide.” But no one is immune.

There are many myths about suicide. One is that talking to someone about suicide will give them the idea. Untrue. “Getting someone to talk about their suicidal thoughts may in fact help reduce the risk,” Lobb said.

Older people tend to be more successful completing suicide than kids who may try more and fail. But no age is exempt.
Knowing more about the facts of suicide can give people the knowledge to help someone they may see in need.

This program will cover:

  • The extent and frequency that death by suicide occurs in Pennsylvania and the United States;
  • The effect suicide has on caregivers and professionals who helped or treated someone who then died by suicide;
  • Different methods of assessing for suicidal threat;
  • The interpersonal theory of suicide;
  • Specific interventions to prevent suicide;
  • Myths surrounding the action of suicide.

And there will be time at the end to ask questions of Lobb.

This program will also provide PA Act 74 credits to those who need them. In 2015, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted Act 74, the Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Continuing Education Act. This legislation requires psychologists, social workers and licensed professional counselors to receive bi-annual training in the recognition of those at risk for suicidal behavior. Act 71 in 2014 requires school personnel to receive similar training to be able to recognize this potential in the classroom. This training will provide continuing education for those professionals required by these two Acts to be on the frontline of suicide prevention.

ACT 74 is known as the Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Continuing Education Act as it was named for Matt Adler who was a victim of suicide. Adler grew-up in eastern Pennsylvania. After becoming an attorney and moving to the state of Washington, he married and had a family. During the last economic recession, Adler, 40, took his own life in February 2011 in the midst of a battle with severe depression and an anxiety disorder. He had been in treatment, but his providers failed to recognize the severity of his depression and the potential risk he presented. He left behind his wife and two children who now advocate for professionals to be educated on suicide annually.

“Having a patient/client die from suicide results in potential post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, in the provider, and family and friends often experience depression, guilt and PTSD as well,” Lobb said. “I encourage anyone interested to attend.”