Media, mental health professionals discuss working together on suicide prevention

Published: Monday, April 7 2014 6:10 p.m. MDT

CrisisLine magnetic stickers, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Members of the media and mental health professionals met together Monday to discuss how they can work together to help bring hope, information and resources to those in crisis.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the media and mental health professionals met together Monday to discuss how they can work together to help bring hope, information and resources to those in crisis.

"We can make a big difference when we partner with the media to get the right message out there," said Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. "I hope we realize the value of partnering together in forwarding these issues. The media can be great partner in that. … (It) can change the public perspective and promote healing."

Myers moderated a panel discussion on suicide prevention titled "Crisis Response: What Role Does the Media Play?" at the Generations Mental Health Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

The four-member panel was comprised of Liz Sollis of the Utah Department of Human Services; Candice Madsen, KSL-TV producer; Barry Rose, crisis services manager for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute; and Emily Hoerner with the Utah Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Sollis said the Utah Department of Human Services tries to provide as much information as possible to help combat the barrier caused by the stigma surrounding suicide.

"The best way to treat stigma is to treat (suicide) like any other illness that ails somebody," she said. "Don't judge. … Be kind and patient and understanding. Having someone well-known in the community who can share a story of someone who died by suicide or attempted helps people realize they're not alone."

Madsen said an assignment to put together a news special on suicide prevention was "one of the most stressful assignments" she'd been given, but KSL tried to focus on providing hope and resources. She said KSL has also committed to continuing its mental health crisis coverage.

"Oftentimes we do reactionary news," Madsen said. "Too often that's the only time mental health issues get attention. We've tried to focus on doing stories throughout the year when there's not a crisis at hand. We've done multiple stories to show the faces of mental illness are everyone … (and) to show it impacts families from every walk of life."

Rose spoke of the many resources available to Salt Lake County residents through the University Neuropsychiatric Institute and the crisis line it runs statewide at 801-587-3000. Most people in crisis just need the proper resources, he said.

"They just need the right help at the right time," Rose said. "The more we can talk about (crisis issues) in positive ways in the public eye, people will understand it more and use the resources available."

One question was how to help the families and crisis workers affected by a person with mental health issues.

Hoerner, who lost a brother to suicide five years ago, said her family went to a class at the University of Utah and pointed to resources also available through the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"Don't be afraid to ask questions," she urged.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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