Sunday, July 1, 2012

Todays Word is Postvention; Picking Up The Pieces.

The Northbrook Community was recently blindsided (actually victimized in a very real sense) by the deaths of two* young adults at their own hands these past few weeks.  Billy Garrity and Ryan McCarthy both had significant ties in the community and their loss has been felt in a very significant way by both family and the larger community.

I've had several individuals make contact with me to ask about what can be done to try and ensure somehow that there are no more deaths of young adults at their own hands.  My response has been what's termed "Postvention" activities.  The term appears to have been coined by folks in New Hampshire when they created a community response system for just such events.  I apologize to the real wordsmith if it isn't the New Hampshire folks but my research of the term led only to them.

Postvention activities involve a sharing of relevant information regarding suicide and help and support for those grieving in the aftermath of these types of action.  The reason postvention activities are so important is that people who personally know folks who have taken their life are at a statistically higher risk themselves for the same action.  And while the CDC does acknowledge contagion as rare, if it hits, it hits young people more.  Therefore postvention activities serve to possibly reduce contagion and therefore reduce risk of additional loss of life.

Postvention activities can involve almost any type of experiential learning as long as it includes factual information regarding what happened, why those choices were wrong and how survivors/victims can grieve and move forward.  Normally those with standing in the community take the lead in providing activities such as Churches, Social Service agencies and local Government.  I've purposely left out schools as they typically don't reach all segments of the community and it's too easy to always suggest the issue is theirs when it isn't; the Medicine is the Community as a whole.

*Some information exists that perhaps the number is actually 3.  I have been unable to confirm the possible third former student but word is it happened within the past 4 weeks or so.  I expect the press to track that issue down fairly quickly.

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