COLUMBUS – The Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska will be hosting a Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program for local clergy at 1 p.m. Monday [March 26th] at the Federated Church.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in Nebraska with an average of one death per every two days. It is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 34.
Chris Hansen, program coordinator and trainer for the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, will be leading the session. Hansen will be illustrating the different tools to identify those at risk for suicide while providing helpful resources for prevention.
The international program began in 1994 after the suicide death of 17-year-old Mike Emme, who was one of the founders of the organization.
Suicide rates are increasing each year, especially among children age 10 and younger, Hansen said.
The training session is free for local clergy members. Although it is organized for clergies, the Rev. Jerry Albright, [Executive Director] member of Interchurch Ministries of Nebraska, decided to open the session to professional counselors due to the high demand.
Albright hopes to attract a group of 25 to 50 people to the training.
More often than not, people seek help from members of a clergy for advice and counseling.
“We are not trained to be professional counselors but so often we are called to respond to families that have experienced tragedies like suicide,” Albright said. “So it is important for us to know the signs of Suicidology.”
Albright wants pastors to increase their suicide knowledge and learn the important steps to handling life and death situations.
“This is very important for us,” Albright said. “We are very happy to do this in the Columbus area.”
This is the first year the training will be held in Columbus. In the near future, both Albright and Hansen hope to expand the session to the general public.
The organization aims to provide the training to everyone, Hansen said.
In the past, students, parents and first responders have benefited from formal training.
“It is really just raising the awareness in our state,” Hansen said. “There’s a need for this.”
Aside from the session, the program distributes Ask 4 Help! cards to youth. The cards provide people with steps to follow when they are approached by a youth that is at risk.
The most important step is to listen, Hansen said.
“We really emphasize the listen part because, in today’s culture, we are so often buried in a computer, a phone or a device, that we really aren’t listening to the conversations happening in or around us,” he said.
Hansen said that it is important to educate children about suicide risks at an early age.
“They need to know that it is okay to ask for help,” he said.