Suicide Prevention Conference Sept. 10

The goal is to provide a comfortable experience discussing a topic that no one would normally consider comfortable.
In recognition of Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday, Sept. 10, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital will host a free suicide prevention conference.
The event is billed as “Having Courageous Conversations About Preventing Suicide,” because of how difficult a topic it is to discuss, said Luke Johnson, who is organizing the event and is the director of inpatient and outpatient psychiatric programs at USC-VHH.
“Everybody, everybody you talk to has been touched by suicide in some way, shape or form, whether it’s immediate family or friends. And most people don’t want to talk about it, but everybody needs to,” said Johnson, who said there were 1 million suicides worldwide in 2014.
The conference, which will begin at 9 a.m. and last until 3 p.m., will feature a quartet of diverse speakers in addition to a panel that will take questions.
Those speakers will include Johan Smith, vice president for Horizon Health and Mental Health Outcomes, whose presentation will be deft and will touch on having recently lost a young nephew to suicide.
Also slated to present are Barbara Lang, a registered nurse who is a passionate veteran in the mental health field, and Dr. Timothy Pylko of San Marino Psychiatric Associates and the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
They will discuss understanding suicide and what can be learned from those who’ve survived it.
Robert David Jaffee, a novelist who’s had his own bouts of suicidal thoughts, will offer a look at what it took for him to overcome his struggles.
“He brings a message of hope,” Johnson said. “And he is going to basically let folks know that it doesn’t have to be as dark as it seems. There are things that can be done aside from getting therapy and professional help, things you can do first-hand, things that help from family and friends, and things that didn’t help.”
The six-speaker panel will feature representatives from Didi Hirsch and Teen Line as well as other suicide prevention organizations.
“They’ll be there to take questions,” Johnson said, “and tell people how they can find out more or get help if somebody’s in crisis. Also, what’s the difference between helping someone who’s 13 versus 83, or who is LGBT? We’ll have somebody who’s going to specifically be able to address all those kinds of questions. We’re trying to cover all the bases and to let people know there are a lot of open doors and places to go.”
There is no cost to attend, but registration is requested. Also, mature teenage volunteers are requested to help as ushers. There’s a “nice T-shirt” in it for the youth who help out, as well as the hope that they’ll take the message back to their peer group.
For information or to register, visit uscvhh.org/suicide-prevention-conference.

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