Staff with both the Raft Crisis Hotline and NRVCS Prevention Services are going to be involved with a number of events/activities throughout the month of September in observance of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. (September 10 – 16 is being observed as National Suicide Prevention Week.)

askingsaves-logo-UPDATEThe #askingsaves Pledge Campaign (www.askingsaves.org) is back for a second year. Created by NRVCS Prevention Specialist Tony Smith, the campaign encourages participants to have direct conversations with loved ones who may be exhibiting warning signs of a potential suicide risk.

“By accepting the challenge, you are pledging to check in on a friend or loved one who you notice to seem distant or different than their normal selves,” explains Smith. “So, it’s important to ask them directly, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’.”

Taking the pledge is simple, says Smith. Simply write #askingsaves on the back of your hand and post a picture on your social media accounts – and be sure to use the #askingsaves hash tag in your posts. Smith encourages those who do share their pledge/post to also tag a friend and ask them to do the same. (You can find the #askingsaves campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.)

In its first year, Smith points out that over 200 people took the pledge last year, resulting in a total social media reach of more than 400,000. Smith’s goal this year is to reach one million.

As part of the campaign, Smith has developed a Suicide Prevention Toolkit that is being distributed to suicide prevention collaborative partners and community leaders throughout the New River valley. It offers #askingsaves promotional material (like church bulletin inserts), suicide facts, and community training opportunities.

“These tools offer community leaders knowledge on how to plug into existing suicide prevention efforts,” notes Smith, “Or, it may empower them to create their own strategy.”

Smith will be speaking at various locations throughout the month to share information about suicide prevention (and #askingsaves). These include: Dublin United Methodist Church (September 17), Radford Goodwill (September 21), and at the “Out of the Darkness Walk” in Dublin (September 30). Smith has also set up a National Suicide Prevention Month bulletin board at Radford University’s McConnell Library that offers a wide range on information that includes suicide prevention training opportunities, details about the #askingsaves pledge, and suicide statistics.

Smith and the Prevention Services team will also be distributing 250 #askingsaves phone wallets (that stick on back of cell phones) at events that we attend throughout the month.

Mental Health First Aid training:
Smith and Raft Volunteer Services Manager Stephanie Bryson will be conducting a free Mental Health First Aid training on September 13 and 14 (from 5 – 9 p.m. both nights) at NRVCS’ main office in Blacksburg (700 University City Boulevard). There are a limited number of seats still available for interested members of the community. If you would like to attend the training (must attend both nights), email Stephanie Bryson.

“Out of the Darkness Walk”:
Bryson notes that Raft is partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and supporting their Out of Darkness walk September 30 in Dublin. That event will take place at Randolph Park. You can join or support Raft’s team for this event – just click here for details.