Riverside Trauma Center Newsletter
Fall 2012
In This Issue
Suicide Prevention Week
Get Involved
Grief Support Group for
Targeted Suicide Prevention
Tornado Crisis Counseling Program
Trauma Response in Workplace
Upcoming Events


National Suicide Prevention Week starts on September 9. With the suicide rate increasing every year, this is a public health issue that needs everyone's help.


Suicide affects a tremendous number of people each year. In 2009, 36,909 suicide deaths were reported in the U.S. Depending on the age and circumstances of the person who died, it is estimated that for every suicide there may be up to 70 or more "survivors" -- family members or friends affected by the death of that person. That means that in addition to the people who die by suicide, over 2,500,000 are tragically affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide every year.


We can all play an important role in suicide prevention. This newsletter provides insight into how to recognize and help people who are severely depressed or considering suicide. It also gives ideas about how to get more involved in suicide prevention, and it outlines some innovative efforts in this field.


I look forward to the day when we see a reduction in the number of suicides. By pulling together as a community and getting involved, I believe that day will come more quickly.



Larry Berkowitz, Ed.D.

Director, Riverside Trauma Center

Suicide Prevention Week 

National Suicide Prevention Week is September 9-15, with World Suicide Prevention Day occurring on September 10. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 36,909 suicide deaths were reported in the U.S. in 2009, a slight increase from 36,035 in 2008.


This latest rise places suicide again as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and makes the current suicide rate the highest it has been in 15 years. In 2010, there were 600 suicides in the Commonwealth, up from 538 in 2009.* That means more than one person every day dies by suicide in Massachusetts.


The truth is that suicide is preventable. It is rarely the result of one simple cause. Many factors frequently play a role in suicide attempts. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have some form of mental illness,** often a type of depression, even if it was unrecognized before their deaths. Similarly, alcoholism and other drug addictions are related to and may be risk factors for suicide. Counseling, frequently combined with medication, is usually successful in treating depression and drug addiction.


We can all play an important role in suicide prevention by knowing the warning signs shown by someone considering suicide and understanding what to do to help that person. Just like learning CPR to give aid in the event of a cardiac emergency, members of the community can learn the signs and courses of action to take to help with an emotional emergency. A person who is seriously depressed or suicidal may seem sad or hopeless, withdraw from friends and family, and show dramatic shifts in mood. He may sleep poorly for days at a time, or sleep much more than normal for a period of time. Sometimes agitation, anger, rage, or even an increase in alcohol or drug use accompanies depression. As members of the community, what can we do to help?


The most important thing to do is to talk with the person. Contrary to common misconception, asking a person if he is considering hurting or killing himself will not cause him to consider suicide. More often than not, the person is glad for the chance to talk about his feelings. Our role as a friend, coworker, neighbor, or family member is to show empathy, concern, and to be persistent in persuading that person to seek help. Many resources are available, including local counseling centers, the national "talk line" at 800-273-8255, or, in Massachusetts, the Samaritans 24-Hour Helpline at 877-870-HOPE (4673).


*Massachusetts Violent Death Reporting System, Injury Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, July 2012.

**National Center for Health Statistics, 2009.

Get Involved in Suicide Prevention  


Participate in suicide prevention and help save lives.

  1. Visit our website to learn about suicide warning signs, symptoms, and risk factors.
  2. Participate in suicide prevention activities like an Out of the Darkness Community Walk. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will be holding more than 250 community walks across the country to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention.
  3. Contact us to talk about scheduling a training for your organization. Our trainings include such topics as Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk (AMSR): Core Competencies for Mental Health Professionals and Recognizing Depression and Suicide Risk. Visit our website to see our full list of trainings.  
  4. Like us on Facebook and post a comment to show your support for suicide prevention.
  5. Make a donation to support Riverside Trauma Center's suicide prevention efforts. Please make check payable to Riverside Community Care and mail it to
    Tracey Monti, Development Office, Riverside Community Care, 450 Washington Street, Dedham, MA, 02026. Note "Riverside Trauma Center suicide prevention" on the memo line.
Grief Support Group for Pre-Teens

Riverside Trauma Center is offering a free group to provide a safe and supportive environment for
pre-teens who are grieving a death to share their experiences through play, art, and conver-sation. This weekly group is targeted to children ages 9-12. (If your child is
outside of this range, but you feel s/he could benefit from this group, please feel free to call for more information.)

The group will be held at Riverside Community Care's offices at 255 Highland Ave., Needham, MA, on Thursday evenings from 6:00 pm-7:15 pm. Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register your child, please contact Joanna Hooper, LICSW at Riverside Trauma Center at 781-915-8366 or jhooper@riversidecc.org.
Targeted Suicide Prevention Efforts    

Suicide affects people of all ages and demographics, so there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in our continuing efforts to prevent suicide. Men think and act differently than women; middle-age men do not have the same thoughts or face the same life obstacles as college students. How can we help everyone? The solution appears to be in the creation of customized suicide prevention efforts that target certain segments of the population. That is exactly what some of the prominent organizations in the field of suicide prevention are doing.


In light of the fact that approximately 1 out of every 15 high school students attempts suicide each year,* the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently created a new high school toolkit. Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools seeks to reduce the risk of suicide among high school students by providing school staff, mental health professionals, health educators, nurses, and others with research-based guidelines and resources to help them identify at-risk teens and take appropriate action to get them help. The toolkit offers information on screening tools, warning signs and risk factors of suicide, statistics, and parent education materials.


In 2009, 43 percent of suicide deaths in the U.S. were among men ages 25-54 -- the highest number of suicide deaths among any age/gender group.** Men in this age group are often unwilling to admit that they have mental health problems or suicidal thoughts and do not tend to take advantage of available resources. In an effort to help these men, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Carson J. Spencer Foundation recently launched Man Therapy. The core component is a website where men and their loved ones can interact with the main character, Dr. Rich Mahogany, who uses humor and practical advice to help men. Dr. Mahogany is focused on dispelling the myth that it is a sign of weakness for men to acknowledge that they have mental health issues. Site resources include a quiz, tips, therapist referrals, links to local support groups, and promotion of a national crisis line.


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, according to a study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). In an effort to reduce the number of these deaths, AFSP developed the Interactive Screening Program -- a web-based outreach effort specifically for college students. Students usually get an email invitation from a college official asking them to try the online Stress and Depression Questionnaire. Students who submit the questionnaire receive a personalized written response from a campus mental health counselor. Students are given the option of remaining anonymous online while they interact with the counselor. At-risk students are urged to meet with the counselor in person for evaluation and treatment options.


The hope is that innovative suicide prevention programs like these that are tailored for a unique audience, will be more effective in the effort to encourage people to seek help -- resulting in a reduction of the number of suicides.


*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.

**Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009.

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Riverside Wraps Up Tornado-Related Crisis Counseling Program


For many of us, June 1, 2011, is a distant memory. However, for those in the path of the tornado that ripped through western and central Massachusetts communities, the date remains permanently etched in their memories. Riverside Trauma Center and our partner agencies were "on the ground" within hours of the tornado striking, helping to support the behavioral and emotional needs of those who were impacted.


Through a nine-month Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Crisis Counseling Grant, which wrapped up on July 31, 2012, we were very active in those affected communities providing door-to-door outreach, support, education, and referrals to needed services. Our partnership with Behavioral Health Network in Springfield enabled us to create a team of 12 Outreach Counselors plus other specialists. Together, we met with almost 1,800 people individually and in groups -- over 4 times as many people as initially projected. We also made available more than 22,000 pieces of literature to residents, providing information on typical reactions to highly stressful events, the recovery process, available resources, and suggestions for future emergency preparedness.


Other highlights of the program included providing support to first responders such as firefighters, and offering culturally and linguistically sensitive support for the needs of the many "New American" immigrants who live in central Massachusetts. Close collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH), Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and FEMA as well as the many towns, cities, and voluntary organizations led to a highly successful effort.

Trauma Response in the Workplace    


Riverside Trauma Center helps people recover 

from the overwhelming stress caused by traumatic events by providing community outreach and counseling. In addition to serving communities; schools; health and human services providers; organizations; government agencies; and individuals, we also provide services to workplaces.


We are often called in by Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or individual companies to respond to traumatic events like workplace accidents or the sudden death of a coworker. In these cases we meet on-site with employees, either in a group setting or on a one-on-one basis, to provide information about grief and trauma and to help employees process their experiences.


The way that an employer responds to a traumatic event has a financial impact. It is estimated that depressive disorders alone already cost employers in the U.S. $51 billion annually in absenteeism and loss of productivity.* Traumatic incidents can cause or exacerbate traumatic stress and other mental health issues, costing employers a significant amount of money. We have met employees who believe that companies not responding adequately to a traumatic event resulted in the inability of the staff to return to their previous level of functioning and/or made employees consider leaving the company. On the other hand, employees often tell us that when a company provides supportive services to staff members, they feel like the company really cares about them.


We also work with employers to support employees through periods of corporate adjustment such as layoffs or restructuring; developing crisis response plans in preparation of a potential future crisis; and providing trainings on mental health, trauma, and stress. In certain instances we have provided brief, office-based, individual therapy to employees who have experienced a workplace trauma.


If you are interested in finding out more information about Riverside Trauma Center's workplace services, please contact our Clinical Services Director, Joanna Hooper at jhooper@riversidecc.org or by phone at 781-915-8366.


*The Societal Promise of Improving Care for Depression, Research Highlights, Rand Health, Rand Corporation, 2008.   

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Upcoming Events


The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention -- Northeast Region is holding its Leadership Breakfast on September 20, 2012, from 7:30 to 10:30 am. Dr. Thomas Joiner -- a nationally known psychologist and expert on suicide -- will be the keynote speaker. The Leadership Breakfast is free.


There will also be a workshop by Dr. Joiner from 12:30 to 3:00 pm entitled "Lonely at the Top: Why Men are the Lonely Sex." The workshop's objectives are to review gender differences in loneliness and related social outcomes, and learn anecdotal, clinical, and scientific evidence as well as down-to-earth clinical approaches to male loneliness and its consequences. The cost for the workshop is $35 per person. CEUs for Social Work, LMHC, and Nurses are pending. 2.5 hours CEs for Psychologists.


Both events will be held at MITRE Corporation, 202 Burlington Road, Bedford, MA.  

To register, for these events, please complete this form and follow the instructions.  

For more information, contact Debbie Helms at 978-327-6671 or at dhelms@familyserviceinc.com or Larry Berkowitz at lberkowitz@riversidecc.org. Registration deadline is September 15, 2012.

Please Let Us Know What You Think

If you would like to share some comments about our newsletter or provide us with some ideas for articles that you would like to see, please send an email to tcenter@riversidecc.org. We would love to hear from you.





Riverside Trauma Center is a service of Riverside Community Care, a non-profit organization. Services are primarily funded through donations and grants. All contributions are welcome and appreciated.


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781-433-0672, ext. 5636


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