MAT-SU — The first Suicide Awareness Symposium, a free event presented by the Alaska Trauma Center and the Alaska Police and Fire Chaplains Ministries, is 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 9-12 at the Palmer Depot and Windbreak Café in Wasilla.

The first two days of the event are in Palmer, and day one will include classes on suicide awareness as well as the implementation of the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, which measures suicide risk.

Wednesday features information and discussion on existing support groups and other programs that can sustainably aid in suicide prevention and intervention. Workshops will additionally focus on postvention, or the aid of persons that have survived or previously experienced suicidal acts.

Chaplain Bert McQueen of the Alaska Police and Fire Chaplains Ministries will lead these classes, and those who attend the courses will receive certification at a dinner on Wednesday night.

CynDee Jenkins and McQueen, as the primary organizers of the event, are particularly excited about the adoption of the severity rating scale. The tool and its training process are available free on the Internet, according to Jenkins and McQueen. It has specific questionnaires for people based on age and military service, and is ideal for the different communities across Alaska, according to McQueen.

“About 30 some states…and in the military…use this as best practice, and it’s a standard of care,” McQueen said.

“It’s had such positive results across the country…Tennessee alone has seen suicide rates drop 71 percent by implementing this tool,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins and McQueen also said they hope that the implementation of the suicide tool and training process in the Valley will help eliminate inefficiencies in suicide treatment. The assessor will see only those who absolutely need immediate care in the hospital, while providing guidance about less severe cases.

The creator of program is Kelly Posner director of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessment and Columbia University professor. Posner will attend the Symposium and help teach people to use the evaluation tool, alongside deputy director Adam Lesser. The two professionals also will hold meet-and-greet sessions and speak at the event.

The event continues Thursday and Friday at the Windbreak Cafe in Wasilla, with more in-depth information on different types of suicide support.

McQueen was approached by Jenkins a year ago, and they have been planning the Symposium ever since. After the event is over, Jenkins plans to review this year’s event and begin making plans for a second symposium.

“We’re already planning for next year,” McQueen said.

The motivation behind the event is not only to address the issue of suicide annually, but also to put programs in place that will promote awareness throughout the year.

For more information on the event or to register, visit bit.ly/1eS7YqC, or call 907-775-8701.

Contact Kaden Weaver at kaden.weaver@frontiersman.com or 352-2270.

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