The Vermillion Rotary Club held it weekly noon meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Neuharth Center on the USD campus. President-elect Mary Edelen opened the meeting and Rev. Ed Nesselhuf gave the invocation.
After the usual round of singing, introduction of guests, and announcements, Rotarian Barry Vickrey introduced Janet Kittams-Lalley as the speaker for the day. Ms. Kittams-Lalley is currently the clinical director at the HELP!Line Center where she coordinates their suicide prevention programs.
She was instrumental in the development of the South Dakota Strategy for Suicide Prevention in 2005 and now serves as a project supervisor for the statewide youth suicide prevention grant.
Ms. Kittams-Lalley began by saying that this is a tough subject. The more people understand, the more suicides can be prevented. She mentioned several national and local statistics.
A suicide happens every 16 minutes. It is the 11th leading cause of death. In 2004, there were 32,439 suicides, or about 11.1 per 100,000 people. Each suicide affects at least six other people (more like 20-25). South Dakota is 13th among all states with 14.5 suicides per 100,000. In 2005, suicide was the ninth leading cause of death in the state.
Her work is primarily at the HELP!Line Center. The phone number is 1-800-273-TALK. All calls for help in the state are routed to her office. The Center provides training, counseling, and Survivor Support Services for surviving family members.
She stated that a South Dakota Strategy for Suicide Prevention was released in 2005. The purpose was to reduce the number of suicides in the state. The Web site address is: sdsuicideprevention.org.
This strategy led to the State Division of Mental Health receiving a Garrett Lee Smith grant of Federal funding of $1.2 million over three years.
There is a high school component to devise Crisis Resource Plans and training for faculty and community caregivers as well as curriculum for ninth-graders.
There is also a university program and USD is a pilot site. This provides training for students majoring in helping professions and housing staff as well as the general student body.
Kristin Bruns, a student at USD, described preparations for Suicide Awareness Week on campus including speakers, informational groups, training and a Stop The Silence Run/Walk.
Matt Stricherz from the Student Counseling Center reminded us that the 9/11 terrorist attack was started by suicide. He said that suicide had different meanings for different people. He also acknowledged all the physicians, clergy and others who work with suicide prevention. Janine Harris told us about Nicky's Fund in honor of her daughter, Nicole Vallie Harris. This fund is used to support emergency medication needs for USD students in crisis.