Believing that it takes a community to save a life, the city of North College Hill launched a month-long, community-wide effort to raise awareness about suicide and mental health.
This is the second year that North College Hill City Council passed a resolution proclaiming the month of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the city. But this year was different – city council wanted to take things a step further. “Someone said if we’re going to do this, we need action, not just words,” said Mimi Anderson, WeTHRIVE! neighborhood navigator for North College Hill.
The city administration worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Southwest Ohio, North College Hill City School District, St. Paul United Church of Christ, and WeTHRIVE! in North College Hill to bring programs to the community throughout the month of September.
“We are very proud to be a city that recognizes suicide prevention and mental health awareness,” said Mayor Mason at a press conference on September 3rd. “Pretending it doesn’t exist or hiding it doesn’t solve any problem. We hope to reach out, get everybody talking about it, aware of it, and educated about it. If we can save one life, it is all worth the effort.”
Highlights of the month
In addition to the kick-off press conference, six forums were held during September. Highlights included:
- Bonding Together for Suicide Prevention, a keynote presentation by Dr. Jennifer Wright-Berryman, a suicide researcher and assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati. You can watch a video recording of Dr. Wright-Berryman’s talk (part 1 is here, part 2 is here).
- Ending the Silence for Families, a NAMI of Southwest Ohio program geared to parents and caregivers of middle and high school students. Participants learned the warning signs of suicide and mental illness and how to seek help. A young adult shared her journey of recovery from a mental health condition.
- In Our Own Voice, another NAMI program, provided a personal perspective of mental illness, showing that it’s possible – and common – to live well with a mental health condition. This presentation was held at both the North College Hill Senior Center and St. Paul United Church of Christ.
- NAMI of Southwest Ohio presented at both of city council’s September meetings.
North College Hill’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month campaign caught the attention of the local media and the community. City Administrator Ron Mosby appeared on WLWT, WCPO, Fox 19, and Local 12 new shows. A kick-off press conference led by Heather Smith, executive director of NAMI of Southwest Ohio, featured Ron, Mayor Mason, and Eugene Blalock, superintendent of NCH City Schools.
Mimi Anderson set up a special Facebook page, @nchSuicidePrevention, to promote the month’s activities. The city, school district, and St. Paul’s also used social media to publicize their efforts. The city posted videos of many of the forums on its Facebook page (@CityofNorthCollegeHill).
Impact on the community
“The NAMI presenters had powerful effects on those who were privileged to hear them speak,” said Reverend Barry Bordenkircher of St. Paul United Church of Christ. “There is still so much stigma and judgment surrounding mental illness that we were all were super impressed with the courage it took to both confront their own illness, but then also talk about it publicly and repeatedly, and bring awareness to others… They struck a nerve, a chord, in that we all know friends or family with mental illness, perhaps even struggle with it ourselves … these brave souls help make it okay to bring it out in the open.”
“What I’ve learned through this whole process is that suicide and mental illness touch so many people across all demographics,” Mimi said. “Dr. Wright-Berryman emphasized that it’s okay to ask people how they are feeling and even to talk about suicidal thoughts they may be having.”
Mimi added, “If someone has a heart attack, you rush to call 911. If someone says ‘I want to kill myself’ – you keep walking. Now we know that we should stop, take it seriously, and get help for that person as well.”
It takes a community
It took true collaboration to make Suicide Prevention Awareness Month more than just a proclamation in North College Hill. “What is remarkable is the good will, trust, and cooperation of the entire community,” said Heather Smith of NAMI at the kick-off press conference. “The city government, North College Hill school district, the faith community, and businesses as well – they’re coming together to demonstrate the truth that it takes a community to save a life.”