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Department of Psychiatry: JABSOM, UHP providers empower and educate community on suicide prevention

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June 12, 2019 —

Featured photo: JABSOM/UHP faculty are on stage at the 2019 Prevent Suicide Hawaii Statewide Conference. 

Written by Vina Cristobal, University Health Partners of Hawaii

On April 11 and 12, more than 400 community members and healthcare professionals gathered at the annual Prevent Suicide Hawaii Statewide Conference, sponsored by the JABSOM/UHP Department of Psychiatry.

The two-day conference was held at the Ala Moana Hotel in Honolulu. It was coordinated by JABSOM associate professor Dr. Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda; Prevention Program Manager at U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Brent Oto; and the Prevent Suicide Hawaii Taskforce. Keynote speakers Lieutenant Governor Dr. Josh Green and Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, were in attendance.

The conference focused on various aspects of suicide prevention, including the correlation between minority populations and mental health, innovative clinical approaches for patients,  and safe messaging in suicide prevention. The event incorporated the three key themes of hope (primary prevention approaches that encourage and inspire), help (intervention and services that are used to treat patients) and healing (provided support).

“From this conference, it is hoped that participants will share and integrate lessons learned, to continue ‘passing life forward’ across our state,” said Dr. Anthony Guerrero, Psychiatry department chair.

UHP providers presented at two of the four workshops during the conference. Dr. Guerrero teamed up with Dr. Gretchenjan Gavero to discuss Filipino populations in mental health settings. Drs. Celia Ona and Brett Lu focused on ground-breaking clinical tactics that were previously considered “treatment-resistant.”

As part of the conference, Psychiatry providers also spearheaded the two-day “Train-the-Trainer” program, which was an interactive experience for middle school and high school students that doubled as an educational opportunity about suicide prevention.

“We utilize approaches that support youth as the agents of change in their communities,” Dr. Guerrero said.


Pictured above: A group photo of student and adult participants of the “Train-the-Trainer” program.

During the program, 57 youth and 18 adults engaged in team-building activities that left participants feeling empowered and inspired to reach out and to support loved ones who may be struggling through a difficult time in their lives.

“I loved the games and activities,” one youth shared in a summary about the program via Dr. Guerrero. “They made it easier for me to come out of my shell and step out to lead.”

Another youth added, “Sharing your sources of strength and support is important to a person’s well-being.”

According to the summary, youth also felt like they were well-educated and confident to become suicide prevention advocates in their respective communities and areas of influence. The power of youth voice was a common theme throughout the conference.

As a result, some of those students that participated in the “Train-the-Trainer” hosted educational sessions on suicide prevention for classmates and teachers. In less than one month, more than 150 youth and adults were given practical ways to prevent suicide in the lives of others.

Dr. Guerrero believes that “interventions centered on strength-based models of youth leadership may promote healing and enhance prevention strategies to address suicide by promoting their voices in the community.”

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