Any decent person would agree that it is worth it to sacrifice a bit of your time if it means preventing a suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates rose in almost every state between 1999 and 2016, with the rate in some states increasing by as much as 50 percent, and Florida's increasing by more than 10 percent. Yet most people aren’t equipped with the know-how to prevent a loved one, friend or acquaintance from taking his or her own life. This September, Chabad of Sarasota-Manatee is hosting three SafeTALK (Suicide Alertness for Everyone) workshops on how to save a life—two for adults and one tailored to teens, all taught by expert Leigh Hershkovich-Ioffe.
The workshops are part of a broader effort by Chabad of Sarasota-Manatee to educate area residents about mental health. “Before you educate, you need awareness,” says Ella Steinmetz, the director of CTeen SRQ, Chabad’s teen group offshoot. In January, Chabad hosted “One Thing I Wish You Knew,” a mental health awareness event for teens. More than 300 people attended the talk, in which four teens shared their personal experiences with mental illness, along with things they wish people knew about mental illness.
After someone Steinmetz knew attempted suicide, Steinmetz was shaken by the fact that she had missed possible warning signs, and saw that there weren’t enough resources available in the area for educating people about suicide. When she polled CTeen's Instagram followers if they would use three hours of their time to save someone’s life, 100 percent of respondents voted yes. “You don’t need to be a professional to save a life,” says Steinmetz, who put together a teen board of four members who will be handling the recruiting, public relations, logistics and setup for the SafeTALK workshops.
The three workshops, which are three hours each, will take place over the course of two days: Sunday, Sept. 8, and Monday, Sept. 9. The first of the three, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. on Sept. 8, will be for teens only—designed to help teens feel more comfortable asking questions and speaking freely. One in five teens suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder; Hershkovich-Ioffe is specially trained to work with this age group.
At the SafeTALK workshops, you can expect to learn how to identify warning signs that someone might attempt suicide, how to talk about suicide with someone considering it and what the next steps should be after identifying someone at risk. “Anyone who says they haven’t been affected by suicide is lying, whether they know it or not," Steinmetz says. "The training is relevant to everyone, and it’s so crucial for a community to take these steps. What are three hours when it comes to saving a life?"
Find out more and RSVP for a SafeTALK workshop at sarasotachabad.com/safetalk. Attendance costs $20 for adults and $10 for teens. The event will take place at Chabad of Sarasota, 7700 Beneva Road, Sarasota.