Dean’s Symposium on Suicide Prevention Engages Community with New Approaches

Eric Caine

April 4, 2019

Police officers, students, mental health professionals and community leaders gathered in Old Chapel Thursday, April 4, to hear experts at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences Dean’s Symposium on suicide prevention.

In his keynote address, Dr. Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center, challenged attendees to consider new approaches to preventing suicide. “To prevent heart disease, you don’t wait until someone has a heart attack,” he said, suggesting that the focus needs to shift from people who have made suicide attempts to those with suicide risk factors.

Also speaking at the symposium, “A Conversation in the Community: A Public Health Approach to Suicide Prevention,” were Lisa Wexler, associate professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy, and Kelley Cunningham, director of suicide prevention for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Wexler discussed her research with indigenous communities in Northwest Alaska that have high suicide rates among their young people. Her team strives to equip and train local people to host “learning circles” that create culturally relevant ways to address the problem. “They might have a better idea of what causes it and what to do about it,” Wexler said.

Cunningham said public health programs in the commonwealth offer intervention strategies to mental health professionals and are employing the Zero Suicide method, which aims to prevent suicidal individuals from falling through the cracks in the health care system.

A panel discussion moderated by Gloria DiFulvio, senior lecturer ni the Department of Health promotion and Policy, followed the talks.

Click on the links below to view the presentation slides or to watch a video recording of the event.