Callaway County to see new suicide prevention group

Pam Phelps, director of the Callaway County Medical Reserve Corps, will learn in December whether the county has received a grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials to help fund a new suicide prevention group. Regardless whether she receives the grant, Phelps said she’s determined the start the group that will ensure a community “safety net” through developed programs and support services.

“If (the grant) doesn’t happen, we’ll find another way to do it,” she said.

The model for the group — called “One Voice, One Community” — is from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. It creates a relationship between residents and the faith-based community to prevent suicide and educate the public on various aspects of suicide.

Phelps said generally when any type of crisis occurs — financial, marital, family, etc. — people will seek out churches and faith-based communities for help. Pastors and religious figures often times, she added, are the main point of contact for those in crisis. Through “One Voice, One Community,” pastors and other heads of churches will be able to easily connect with suicide prevention professionals so they can better guide those who are struggling.

“We want to make sure pastors have every available resource they can use,” Phelps said.

Rev. Ed Varnum, pastor at First Christian Church in Fulton, said when people approach him who are depressed and/or suicidal he listens to them and prays with them. Then, he seeks professionals to further assist in the situations. The idea of having a faith-based component to suicide prevention, Varnum said, allows more people in a community — in this case, faith based — to listen, pray and share experiences with someone who is struggling.

“Other people in our church who have a first-hand knowledge of depression and suicide can connect with those (who are depressed and/or suicidal),” Varnum said.

When applying for the grant, Phleps requested numbers from the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department, Fulton Police and Holts Summit police on attempted and completed suicides from January through October 2013. The following is information she received from the departments.

The Callaway County Sheriff’s Office responded to:

•21 suicide attempts

•7 completed suicides

The Fulton Police Department responded to:

•55 suicide attempts

•2 completed suicides

The Holts Summit Police Department responded to:

•31 suicide attempts

•No completed suicides

The numbers do not include information from Auxvasse or New Bloomfield, but Phelps said “we know of suicides in both communities.”

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