Teams Help Prevent SuicideAug 25, 2022 12:00AM ● By Story and photo by Debra Dingman, Dixon editor
Mayor Steve Bird and Councilmen Don Hendershot, Scott Pederson, Jim Ernest, and Kevin Johnson supported Jennifer MacKinnon of Pacific Clinic with the proclamation of National Suicide Prevention Week in Dixon for September 4 - 10.
DIXON, CA (MPG) - Everybody's got a story to tell, and everybody's got a wound to be healed... I can't let go, I can't move on... are words sung by the American songwriter, Plumb, in Need You Now. The words echo the sound of desperation of people dangerously close to taking their own life.
In Solano County, there were 54 suicide deaths in 2021 which represented an 8-percent increase over 2020. Nationwide, there are 130 suicides per day and an estimated 1.20 million attempts, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Dixonite Jennifer MacKinnon, a licensed Marriage and family therapist, works to lower those numbers. She ensured Dixon Mayor Steve Bird read the proclamation and announced September 4 - 10 as Suicide Prevention Week. She was one of several people who volunteered to attend their local city councils and got the proclamation for National Suicide Prevention Week 2022. MacKinnon has personally experienced people who have attempted suicide.
"I've been in mental health programs for 20 years and doing clinics for children and adults," she said. "Our agency started down the path of mobile crisis that led me into suicide prevention. I have a heart that comes from my faith on my personal level. And my faith drives me to reach out to help people who are struggling with mental health." MacKinnon is part of two teams organized by Pacific Clinic who enacted two mobile crisis programs in Solano County. She works on the community-based one.
By calling 911, they will send a team out to meet with the person and assess them. They will meet them in person.
"If they have an acute mental health condition, we can get them the help they need," she said. "Providing resources and connecting to therapy helps stabilize a person. Then we do 'Safety Planning.' If someone is feeling unsafe and is in crisis, we don't want to leave them [without help.] We want them to be safer than when we met them, so we developed a plan to help them remain safe." They leave the person with resources to connect to, coping skills, and basic ideas to remain safe in the community.
"We go throughout the whole county. Any person can call," MacKinnon said. The other team is for schools and those go through the Solano County Office of Education. That team is located there and is responsible to physically go to the school for a crisis call.
Some of the signs friends and family can watch for in a struggling person are: Not participating in normal activities because they are so depressed that they are isolating from society. Another thing is if people are using drugs or alcohol excessively. That's what people do when they are trying to avoid life. Maybe someone is having a psychosis and having odd behavior or hearing voices or having mood swings. That doesn't always lead to suicide but those are things you need to look at. And, certainly when someone expresses a desire to die.
"We have to take LGBTQ seriously. COVID created an isolation that when someone is already depressed and struggling and unsure how to have good social contact--it just created a horribly perfect storm," she said.
Across the county there will be events that bring notice to suicide prevention but there are resources available right now.
When Pacific Clinic steps up to help, they are typically addressing both mental health and basic needs, including food and clothing. The biggest behavioral health needs include depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse, school bullying, behavioral issues and parenting skills.
Starting 150 years ago, this organization was founded as Eastfield Home of Benevolence in San Jose. Pacific Clinics is now California’s largest community-based nonprofit provider of behavioral and mental health services and supports. Its team of more than 2,000 employees speak 22 languages and are dedicated to offering hope and unlocking the full potential of individuals and families through culturally responsive, trauma-informed, research-based services for individuals and families from birth to older adults. The agency offers services in multiple California counties including Solano. Its funding sources are grants, private donors, and a lot of services are billed to Medi-Cal.