In the 2019 Long Beach Community Health Assessment, 14.5 percent of adult residents of Long Beach were diagnosed with depression. Suicide was the second leading cause of premature death. According to the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 8.9 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months and female students attempted almost twice as often as male students (11 percent versus 6.6 percent). Most individuals likely know someone dealing with depression, anxiety, psychosis, or suicidal thoughts. There is a shortage of psychiatric mobile response teams both with the police and department of mental health. While Long Beach has the Behavioral Urgent Care Center, it does not serve children under the age of 13.

At The Guidance Center, these statistics are sadly all too familiar. Last year, during the height of the pandemic, many clients presented with suicidal ideation, symptoms of self-harm and severe depression. It is evident that there is increasing need for suicide prevention strategies not only to help our clients but also to help members of the Long Beach community.

Hospitalization and medication is not the answer for people with suicidal ideation because it does not resolve the emotional pain they experience and yet, many professionals resort to hospitalization as the primary intervention due to fear. Instead of utilizing hospitalization, we propose to increase the capacity of professionals and paraprofessionals who can respond effectively to those with suicidal thoughts.

In response to this growing crisis, The Guidance Center recently received grant funding from the Josephine S. Gumbiner Foundation and Rudolph A. and Daphne A. Munzer Foundation to provide specialized Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR) trainings to mental health professionals at The Guidance Center and in the community, and AMSR trainings to non-mental health direct care staff in the community (e.g. receptionists, youth counselors). AMSR is a research-based training model that helps behavioral health professionals and nonprofessionals feel confident navigating challenging conversations and offers strategies for providing compassionate care to people at risk for suicide.

The grant funds also will support Collaborative and Management of Suicidology (CAMS) trainings to Guidance Center clinical staff. CAMS is a six to eight-week suicide-focused treatment model tailored to a patient’s suicidal risk. It is a flexible approach that can be used across theoretical orientations and disciplines for a wide range of suicidal patients across treatment settings and within different treatment modalities. It has been shown to reduce overall symptom distress, change suicidal thoughts and decrease hopelessness across 30 randomized clinical trials and is liked by patients who use it.

Angelina Palma-Williams, LCSW, PPSC, Program Manager of the Long Beach Outpatient program, and Dawn Vo-Jutabha, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer, have both been certified as lead trainers in AMSR and CAMS. They currently plan to offer five AMSR trainings (three to mental health professionals and two for non-mental health direct care staff) in the current fiscal year.

“We know that the vast majority of individuals that are at risk for suicide spend more time living in the community rather than seeking stabilization during hospitalization. With this in mind it is important for community providers to have suicide risk management skills that are integrated into their treatment approach for all clients instead of being reactive in the time of crisis,” says Angela Palma-Williams, LCSW, PPSC. “As one of the lead trainers at The Guidance Center for AMSR, our training helps clinician develop competencies with risk formulation, planning, and responding to promote recovery not just stabilization. This approach also supports clients in expressing their pain and understanding the function of their suicidal thoughts so they can find a way to end the pain through wellness.”

The first AMSR training will be held virtually on Wednesday, August 31st. To learn more, check out the registration flyer here or visit go.edc.org/3aqy to enroll. The deadline to register is August 17th.

The Guidance Center is immensely grateful to the Josephine S. Gumbiner Foundation and the Rudolph J. and Daphne A. Munzer Foundation. Through their support, they are proactively responding to the needs of the community by investing in helping children and families have a brighter and healthier future.

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