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Suicide awareness session in Comox Valley part of new series

New to the Comox Valley, 'in the know' sessions offer parents a chance for networking, discussion and presentations by various experts on mental health in youth topics.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness: Opening One More Door is scheduled for Wednesday evening, and organizer Colleen Clark — who is the parent in residence in the Comox Valley for the FORCE (Families Organized for Recognition and Care Equity) Society for Kids' Mental Health — notes this topic is one many Comox Valley parents will likely want to learn more about.

"Everyone understands the importance of it," says Clark of the parents she's spoken to about suicide prevention and awareness. "They understand the educational piece and I think there's a relief to a certain point, that people have that — you know what, 'It's OK to talk about this, let's get rid of the stigma.' That's what I keep hearing."

The session will be held in the library of Queneesh Elementary School (2345 Mission Rd. in Courtenay) on Nov. 14 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. It's free and registration is not required.

The session will start off with a meet-and-greet from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Then, attendees will watch the 'in the know' webinar, which features James Musgrave, MEd, who is the team leader of Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health at the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Musgrave will speak from BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver and similar webinars are set up around the province.

He will talk about five key points: fact versus fiction, the warning signs of suicide, what you can do to be helpful, what you should avoid, and where to go for help.

Following the webinar, attendees will have about an hour to network and discuss the topic amongst themselves at Queneesh school.

Clark says she will have one or two clinicians on-site for this session in case anyone needs advice or support from a professional.

She adds part of her role in the Valley is to remove the stigma surrounding discussion of suicide, and she says talking about suicide prevention and awareness seems especially important to people here since the teen suicides last year.

"The response from the community has been overwhelming in a good way," says Clark, who has two daughters and has lived here for 12 years. "The reception from every single community member that I have met, whether it's a professional, you know, a mother, a father, school teachers, everyone, has just been absolutely amazing."

Clark's role is new to the Comox Valley; she just started as the parent in residence here and in Campbell River in August and only one other 'in the know' session, which was on Internet gaming addiction, has been held so far in the Comox Valley.

The 'in the know' sessions are held the second Wednesday of each month at the same time and place.

But Clark's role also includes other methods of community outreach around mental health issues.

"Basically, in a nutshell, my role is supporting and empowering parents in the Comox Valley and in Campbell River," says Clark. "We do that by providing resources — there are a lot of resources on all the mental health topics — and just providing educational materials and connecting them, like networking, connecting them with other parents."

To contact Colleen Clark, e-mail her at colleen@forcesociety.com. For more information on the FORCE Society or to view past 'in the know' sessions, of which there are 15 to 20, visit www.forcesociety.com.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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