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You’re invited to a community conversation on suicide prevention

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RIGBY — Suicide is a tough topic to discuss, but it’s a conversation that one local nonprofit group feels needs to happen in eastern Idaho.

“If you bring people with different perspectives together everybody has something to contribute and you get a much richer exchange of information,” VOICE Advocacy Director Andra Smith Hansen says.

The group is hosting a community conversation about Suicide Prevention on April 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Rigby High School.

The Rexburg nonprofit is dedicated to “creating community conversations about challenging issues in an effort to increase empathy, raise awareness, facilitate collaboration and collective action.”

Hansen says this particular event comes after work the group has done in classrooms at Rigby High School, and as a way to continue to spread awareness in the wake of SPAN (Suicide Prevention Action Network) Idaho dissolving.

RELATED: Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho announces it’s closing

Hansen says although her team consists of skilled volunteers, she and others in VOICE aren’t experts on the topic of suicide.

“We’re skillful at what we do, but we don’t share expert knowledge, and we don’t try to dive in or diagnose,” Hansen says. “What we do really listen and then report back.”

Professionals will be overseeing the discussion, which won’t consist of formal instruction.

Hansen says the group is partnering with Rigby High School, and Community Suicide Prevention, which was created after SPAN closed.

“They’re rapidly becoming well organized,” Hansen says. “They’ll be the go-to organization in this area for suicide prevention activities, information, guidance, and training, and they are guiding VOICE as we create this community conversation.”

The roundtable discussions at the event will be divided into four sections.

Rigby High School administrators have been asked to focus on four specific topics under the umbrella of suicide prevention: how to maintain mental wellness, personal growth after trauma, creating healthy relationships and positive coping skills.

The discussions will happen simultaneously.

By having professional facilitators in each of the four sections, the likelihood that misinformation would be shared decreases, Hansen says.

RELATED: Firefighter honored for saving colleague from suicide.

“You’re coming, and you’re engaging in discussion, and then Voice has people there taking notes. We ask people to leave cards with their insights, notes or their individual questions,” Hansen says.

She said the event takes “the problem-solving approach as opposed to focusing on the crisis.”

Following the conversation, VOICE team members take the information from the meeting, analyze it and prepare a report.

They share it with the high school, community leaders and individuals who attended that may want a copy. Hansen says they compile public information that they hope will be constructive.

“The main goal is just coming together as a community and finding resources to help students or to help anyone that is struggling with mental health, or depression or thoughts of suicide,” VOICE team member Abbigail Buttars says.

Hansen encourages everyone from the community to come and share insights at the event. She says individuals can make a difference in suicide prevention efforts.

“You don’t have to be an expert to be productive,” Hansen says. “The everyday insights, or … questions, those are invaluable, so we really hope that people will band together and turn out (and) show a commitment to this issue.”

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