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In the News

Tim Diehl, Executive Director, and Lisa Fletcher-Udel, Director of Collaborations and Prevention Activities, and the Acting Director of Education and Training for Berkshire AHEC, were guests on a local program called, "Common Sense," presented on local access cable stations throughout Berkshire County.

To see the program click the play button above.

Read more Berkshire AHEC News by clicking the links below.

Youth Suicide Prevention Project 07/07/2009

Pittsfield–Berkshire County tops many lists for Massachusetts’ most beautiful scenery and favorite cultural and vacation destinations, but its rank as the region with one of the highest youth suicide rates in the Commonwealth is a concern of many.  According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s most recent figures, Berkshire County has 1-1.25 times higher rate for self-inflicted injury for youth ages 10-24 as compared to the rest of the State, as well as a similar figure for the average annual acute care hospital visit rate for nonfatal self-inflicted injury for youth ages 1--24. From 2002 to 2006, total suicides among all ages totaled 56 compared to 9 homicides and 91 deaths from motor vehicle deaths in Berkshire County. Suicide deaths for all ages outnumbered homicides 6 to 1 in Berkshire County

Recognizing this as a community-wide problem, the Berkshire Community Health Network (CHNA 1) and Berkshire AHEC have created the Berkshire Youth Suicide Prevention Project.  With funding from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the aim of the project is to improve the community’s ability to identify at-risk youth and intervene quickly. 

The focus population of the Project includes:  youth in the community who are engaged in or at risk of engagement with the foster care or juvenile justice program; sexual minority youth, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; youth who experience dating violence, bullying, community violence, or other forms of victimization; and other priority populations to be identified.

“Our communities are all too familiar with this problem and many people struggle with a sense of helplessness,” says Berkshire AHEC Director Timothy Diehl.  “This Project has been designed to provide the entire community with strategies that will improve our response to children and families at risk for suicide.”

The initial phase of the Project will be the creation of a suicide prevention coalition that encompasses all of Berkshire County.  This will include consumers; school personnel; community based service providers; youth social and recreational organizations; police and fire chiefs; emergency responders; representative of NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill; and anyone that interacts with youth. 

In addition to creating the coalition, the Project will complete a thorough assessment of the region’s problem of youth suicide; and design and implement a regional prevention and postvention plan to combat it.   

Congressman John Olver expressed his support for the Project’s funding. “Awarding this grant brings to light the real tragedies that Berkshire County has faced with an increased number of youth suicides over the past few years and will hopefully bring a better understanding and support system to the county to prevent further losses.”

Ninety percent of all suicides are preventable.  The goal of the Project is to teach people to recognize the signs of suicide and what to do when they encounter a youth that may be in danger.  Postvention refers to a plan to deal with completed suicides (help for family and other survivors) as well as a plan to adequately support youth who have gone to treatment after a suicide attempt and then return to the community.  

The grant was awarded to CHNA 1, a coalition of health and human service providers and consumers across Berkshire County, who work together to enhance access to care and improve health indicators in the region.  Berkshire AHEC, a CHNA 1 member, has been designated as the lead agency to implement the grant, under the direction of Lisa Fletcher-Udel, Director of Collaborations and Prevention Activities.  Eight CHNAs in the Commonwealth were eligible to apply and only three received funding.

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