The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Suicide prevention month: Resources available in the area


September 6, 2018

Suzanne Arnits came to the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners meeting Tuesday asking for a proclamation.

She got that from the commissioners, but she also started a conversation.

Arnits is an outreach coordinator for NAMI SW WA—the southwestern Washington chapter of the National Alliance For Mental Health.

September is national Suicide Prevention Month, and the board approved a resolution recognizing the problem and urging all persons to be aware of signs that a person may be considering suicide and also how to seek help for them.

NAMI SW WA serves Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties, offering support, education and advocacy for people dealing with mental health issues and suicide. The group offers support groups three days a week in Cowlitz County at its Longview office at 1128 Broadway Street.

“We’re working to get funding to have a physical presence here,” she said.

NAMI will have a program in Cathlamet on Sept. 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Called ASK, it invites people to sign pledges to support people they know who may be considering suicide (see story on Page 6 of this issue.) The program will be in the Wahkiakum Community Center, 100 Main Street.

The presentation generated discussion and sharing of experiences among the commissioners, audience and staff of the Wahkiakum County Health Department who were present at the Tuesday meeting.

Chris Bischoff, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Department, said he was quite pleased to learn the extent of the county’s suicide prevention services when he became department director.

“It’s a proud spot for Wahkiakum County, and for how long you’ve been doing it,” he said.

“We have 30 plus years,” said Tristan Wozniak, mental health program director. “Our out patient and crisis treatment teams have been the same.”

Therapists will support a person who seems to be in a lot of stress until they can start a therapy program, she said.

“If they’re in crisis, we engage with them,” she said. “Teams do both therapy and crisis work.”

The therapists have work to do.

“Today is the 247th day of the year,” she said. “We’ve had 250 crisis contacts for the year.”

The contacts involve 70 individuals. Seven percent of the calls come from the Family Health Center clinic in Cathlamet; 11 percent come from other referrals, and 28 percent are self identified persons.

Eight percent of the calls are to the county jail; another 37 percent involve calls including response with law enforcement, meaning 45 percent of all calls are in conjunction with law enforcement.

Some of that involves how people seek help. “We have a crisis phone number, but people call 911 first,” she said.

The therapists and law enforcement work well together, Bischoff said.

“Many other counties would be jealous of our relationship with the sheriff’s office,” he said.

The department also has a therapist working in the the Cathlamet schools; they don’t have numbers for all the contacts made there.

Therapists are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Bischoff said.

“When we’re called, we go,” he said. “We respond to all crisis calls.”


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