Troy Kiwanis to host event promoting teen suicide prevention

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published August 25, 2022

 Suicidologist Gigi Colombini will be one of the speakers at a teen suicide prevention program taking place at Troy Athens High School Thursday, Sept. 15.

Suicidologist Gigi Colombini will be one of the speakers at a teen suicide prevention program taking place at Troy Athens High School Thursday, Sept. 15.

Photo provided by Gigi Colombini


TROY — The Troy Kiwanis Club is inviting those in the community to join them for a special program discussing the realities, warning signs and potential solutions to the threat of teen suicide on Thursday, Sept. 15.

Kiwanis Club member and 52nd District Court Judge Kirsten Hartig is helping organize the event, which she said is desperately needed in the community.

“This topic has been on my mind since before the pandemic because of what I see in the community and in my courtroom in terms of depression and anxiety,” she said. “I think the situation has gotten worse. I see young people who have tried to take their life and have been in and out of the hospital. About six or eight years ago, one of my son’s friends died of suicide. I think there’s been one teenager in the high schools in Troy who have died by suicide every year since then. It’s becoming common, and I wanted to fight back on that.”

The program will take place 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at Troy Athens High School, located at 4333 John R Road in Troy.

Hartig said that when she brought up the possibility of an event with the goal of combating suicide to the Troy Kiwanis Club leadership, they jumped at the chance. After that, the club began coordinating with high schools in both Troy and Clawson about involving their students.

“We chose Troy Athens because they have the biggest auditorium between the two districts,” she said. “There’s no requirement to register. People can choose to register by using the QR code on our flier to give us an idea of attendance. We will have a swag bag, and that will help us make sure we have enough materials for those who attend.”

Hartig said the core portion of the program will be presentations and Q&A sessions with experts and those who have had teen suicide impact their life.

“We have four incredible speakers,” she said. “There is a suicidologist who has dedicated her life to working with young people who have tried to take their own lives. We have an adult survivor who had tried to take her life for the first time at age 14 and tried again six times. She’s now 23 and she is speaking about her experiences. To her, she felt like taking her life was the only choice because she was so incredibly miserable and felt like there was no changing that. … We also have the mother of a Troy teen who took his life a few years ago. She will tell their story. Lastly, we have the brother of another Troy student who took his own life.”

Gigi Colombini, a suicidologist, is one of those speakers; she is an expert in the field of suicide prevention.

“A suicidologist is someone who studies the prevention of suicide,” she explained. “I’m a licensed master’s level social worker, and since 1990, I have been working in the field of suicide prevention. I started at a crisis center on a suicide hotline. I have since developed programs that have gotten national attention, particularly in areas of continuation of care and how families can address this topic.”

Colombini said the most important aspect of suicide prevention is communication and addressing issues head-on.

“The importance of families talking about suicide with young people is the key,” she said. “I often say to families I work with, suicide is one of the conversations we should be having with teens the same way we talk about things like sex or drugs. These aren’t topics they should just hear about from second-hand sources. … It’s the second-leading cause of death for young people, and it’s highly preventable. The way we can make the most impact is by talking about it.”

She added that a common misconception is that many people think that bringing up the subject of suicide may push someone dealing with such feelings closer to suicide. She said the reality is the exact opposite.

“Talking about suicide prevents suicide, not the other way around,” she said. “Not all mental health professionals are familiar with cases of suicidal behavior. You need to find someone who specializes or is familiar with the topic. When someone is released from the hospital for being suicidal, they are needing more care in those few weeks following discharge than any other leading cause of death.”

Hartig said this misconception was an impression she operated under for a long time.

“I was under the impression that speaking up to the person you are concerned about might put the idea in their head,” said Hartig. “If you bring it up, it might put them on that road to suicide. I was very reluctant to speak, but the experts say that is wrong. I am hoping to tell others that they need to address it with them.”

Hartig said that the program is especially important at this point in time because the pandemic exacerbated many of the issues that often affect young people, such as isolation, alienation and stress.

“I think this has always been a problem but that the pandemic made the sad sadder and the lonely lonelier,” she said. “This will be two hours that will be super impactful, and I encourage all families in Troy and Clawson to attend.”

Colombini urges those dealing with these issues to take action by attending the event and, in the meantime, reaching out for help from experts whether they are concerned about themselves or someone else.

“My organization is the Institute for Hope and Human Flourishing, and I can be reached by emailing or calling (248) 872-7772,” she said. “There is help out there. It’s not always easy to find. Don’t stop looking. There is the suicide prevention hotline, and they can call our clinic at (248) 872-7772.”