HOPKINTON — Every year, almost seven-million people take their own lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. Financial worries, health issues, relationship problems, addictions, psychological disorders and many other things can make a person feel as if there is no hope. A program in Hope Valley wants those individuals to hold on – and reach out.

Survivors of Suicide Attempts is an eight-week collaborative effort held at Wood River Health Services, located at 823 Main Street. It is run by Peer Recovery Specialist Rev. Erin Goodman in conjunction with Licensed Clinical Social Worker Nancy Embleton.

The program was developed by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Center in Culver City, Cal. and is the only program of its kind currently being run in Rhode Island.

“As a suicide attempt survivor myself, I feel very blessed that I now get to help others in my own community,” Goodman said. “A Peer Recovery Specialist is someone who is thriving in their own recovery and has been through the training to help others. I want to take the stigma away from mental illness and show people that recovery is possible.”

As an employee of Wood River Health Services and the Washington County Zero Suicide program, a part of the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds organization, Goodman was asked by those entities to head up the program, which began via Zoom during the Covid pandemic.

“That was not well-attended but now that we can meet in person, we are really hoping to get the word out,” she said. “Right now the group is for adults over the age of 18. It is a closed group that meets once a week for an hour. The meeting time is determined by the availability of the participants and the next group is slated to start in early May.”

Goodman said the group is a place for survivors to share their thoughts and feelings, to learn coping skills and to form trust and friendships with others in the group. Non-clinical support is offered in addition to whatever support the participant receives from their physicians or mental health workers.

“People often feel hopeless,” Goodman said. “They feel there is no possible way that how they’re feeling is ever going to change. I hope that by sharing my story it can give someone a glimmer of hope. Things can get better beyond your imagination.”

The group is open to adults in Rhode Island and nearby Conn. The cost is billed through insurance and there are funds available for those without medical coverage as well as funds to assist with transportation. “Cost should not be a factor at all,” Goodman said.

Physicians who would like to refer a patient to the group may do so, and anyone who would like to learn basic life-saving skills which can be employed until a loved one enduring a crisis is able to obtain mental health help may sign up for “Question, Persuade, Refer” training, offered twice a month via Zoom, free of charge.

“People can be very vulnerable until given an opportunity for healing and learning coping strategies,” Goodman said. “This type of work is very difficult but incredibly rewarding. I get to see growth and healing. I get to cheer people on and be a safe person to talk to when challenges arise. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

To register for the upcoming Survivors of Suicide Attempts program, or to receive information on other programs or training sessions, email Goodman at: egoodman@wrhsri.org

Those with questions may also email Danielle Stewart, Training Coordinator for Zero Suicide and QPR at: dstewart@southcountyhealth.org or Dr. Richard Harrison, Program Director for Zero Suicide at: robharrison63usna@gmail.com

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