Immer says the shock of Erin’s suicide and the events that followed have shaped her ministry: “If it could happen to Erin, it could happen to anyone.” “It” is that word that strikes at the heart of suffering of millions of persons: suicide. Immer says that, when she speaks her own experience in dealing with friends and congregational families who have lost persons to suicide, people talk back. “Their stories flow,” she says. “They speak of parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, and the list goes on. I sometimes felt like I’ve opened the floodgates of past secrets just by saying the word ‘suicide.’”
Immer knows from experience what many of us have discovered: suicide and mental illness are the quiet suffering of many families as a culture of shame that surrounds mental illness is pervasive in our society.
Suicide accounts for over 30,000 deaths per year in the U.S., and an estimated one million make an attempt each year. High‑risk populations include young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) persons, many of whom are bullied; as well as veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression: ninety percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder, and research has shown that medications and therapy can be effective to prevent suicide.
“Education and public awareness can help prevent death by suicide,” says Immer, whose passion for this ministry has led her to develop a workshop next month to address this critical need. “The church is in the business of creating hope,” affirms Immer. “Christians, clergy in particular, need to be trained in ways to provide and be hope for those who are hurting, for those who don’t have a ‘life line’ to hang onto and be pulled back into the boat.”
To that end, Immer has designed an all-day event onWednesday, October 10, at Sycamore UMC, to be led by Stephanie Weber, Executive Director of Suicide Prevention Services of America. SPS, a non-profit agency based in Batavia, is one of only seven agencies the country that offers all of the components of suicide prevention under one roof: prevention, intervention, and postvention. Immer says that Weber, whose private practice has led her across the nation as a suicidologist, founded Survivors of Suicide (SOS) in 1982, the 24/7 Crisis Line of Fox Valley in 1984, and SPS (www.spsamerica.org) in 1998. With Weber’s expertise and Immer’s passion, the October workshop includes these goals: learning to identify warning signs of suicide and most common triggers; understanding and practicing responses to warning signs; understanding myths and facts about mental health, mental illness, and suicide; identifying skills in public education and awareness and prevention; understanding the grief process and how it differs after a death by suicide.
The Workshop begins with registration at 8:30 a.m., includes lunch, and will conclude at 4:00 p.m. Registration is $10.00 and is limited to the first 250 registrants. Continuing Education credits are also available upon request after workshop completion. Please register via email (email@example.com) or with the attached flyer by October 3, 2012. For more information, please contact Rev. Immer.