La Plata County does not have a support group for people who have attempted suicide, so Emma Harmon, an attempt survivor, decided to start one herself.
Harmon, a mental health advocate and crisis counselor, is working with the La Plata County Suicide Prevention Collaborative to hold an eight-week support group to help survivors. The program is designed to be a safe, non-demanding atmosphere where participants can be among others who understand their experience.
“I know there’s so many attempt survivors in Durango, based on people who die by suicide, the attempt rate also has to be very high,” Harmon said. “There’s definitely need in the area.”
Two years ago, Harmon was struggling with her mental health and having suicidal thoughts.
“I didn’t want to act on those thoughts at all because I knew it was like a sickness, and I didn’t really want to die,” Harmon said.
She couldn’t get into Axis Health System fast enough to get help, so she started looking for support groups. While there are groups for people grieving deaths from suicide, none in the area focus on attempt survivors, Harmon said.
Realizing the need in the area, she did some research and discovered a curriculum created by the nation’s first Suicide Prevention Center, part of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services.
The support group became a reality with funding provided by the county Suicide Prevention Collaborative, a partnership between Celebrating Healthy Communities, San Juan Basin Public Health and community stakeholders and leaders. Harmon believed it was the first group focused on attempt survivors in the county.
The Suicide Prevention Center curriculum helps people connect with peers who can support each other in times of crisis. It helps reduce internalized or perceived stigma and increases coping skills related to suicidal thoughts.
It creates an environment where people feel comfortable and able to speak about the thoughts and feelings that led to their suicide attempt. It also offers safety planning tools and other resources.
It’s a positive curriculum, that offers a way to connect with others and in a safe way, Harmon said.
The group is free for its participants and designed to support those who have survived one or more suicide attempts. Both Harmon and Megan McCartney, a licensed social worker, will be trained facilitators for the group.
Participants will meet via Zoom, a video conferencing platform, starting from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 27. It is a closed cycle, meaning once it starts no one else can join, Harmon said. Participants are required to complete an intake interview with the facilitator before attending.
Sign-ups are ongoing. The group can hold a maximum of eight people, and two slots are already filled. At least four people are needed to conduct the program, Harmon said.
“I don’t personally know one other attempt survivor. ... No one else knows how it feels and how it continues sometimes with the suicidal thoughts,” Harmon said. “I’m stoked just to have some people to connect with that will understand.”