The Detroit Public Schools Community District will be partnering with the Detroit Association of Black Organizations to host a forum to discuss the topic of suicide.

The Detroit Public Schools Community District will be partnering with the Detroit Association of Black Organizations to host a forum to discuss the topic of suicide.

Photo provided by Horace Sheffield


Forum to discuss the warning signs of suicide

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 25, 2018

 Actress Erika Alexander will return as a guest speaker to discuss the warning signs of suicide, and how to respond, at a public forum on the topic Saturday, June 9, at Grace Community Church on Moross Road.

Actress Erika Alexander will return as a guest speaker to discuss the warning signs of suicide, and how to respond, at a public forum on the topic Saturday, June 9, at Grace Community Church on Moross Road.

Photo provided by Horace Sheffield

DETROIT — The Detroit Association of Black Organizations is teaming up with other community partners to host a forum on the topic of suicide and how to reduce the risk of it in a friend, neighbor or loved one.

The purpose of the forum is to educate members of the public to recognize the warning signs of those contemplating suicide and to teach people how to respond if they see those signs.

“The main thing is, a lot of people now have been exposed to friends and family members who are at risk or have attempted suicide. We provide some real, evidence-based plans to counter this,” explained the Rev. Horace Sheffield, the executive director of DABO. “We provide a program called QPR — Question, Persuade and Refer. Our program will teach people ... how to address these situations as they arise.”

The forum will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, at Grace Community Church, 21001 Moross Road in Detroit. There is no cost, and the public is welcome. Those wishing to attend can register at stopsuicideforum.eventbrite.com or by calling (313) 491-0003.

The forum will include a presentation by actress Erika Alexander, known for roles in “Living Single” and “Get Out.” Having been personally affected by suicide, she talks with people about the far-reaching effects it can have. She also took part in a similar DABO presentation in 2017.

“We invited actress Erika Alexander, whose mother attempted suicide five different times, and she has some real insight on the signs and what this looks like,” Sheffield said. “She attended last year and made a real impact.”

DABO works closely with the Detroit Public Schools Community District because of how relevant the topic of suicide can be to teens and how talking to people early can make a difference in their lives.

“Last year, we did it with school-age children. This year, we are partnering with churches and community organizations as well as the Detroit community school district to be a part of this. We made several presentations to the kids,” said Sheffield. “A lot of this stuff stems from things that go on in school, so the school district wants their staff to be equipped to deal with those going through these issues.”

Administrators with the school district are glad they are able to engage with students on the topic of suicide.

“I think it’s information important to the community at large,” said Yolanda Eddins, the assistant director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement with DPS. “The school district, along with it’s faith-based council, have asked for ways to support action on this subject. People are often silent on this matter, but it affects everyone. We want to ensure we are proactive in caring for our students and parents.”

Sheffield and Eddins both said this is a matter that many do not realize is common and often not discussed openly.

“(Last year) when Erika asked a room full of middle school-aged students who knew someone who attempted suicide, every single one raised their hands,” Sheffield said. “This is a very underreported issue in the community. There’s still a stigma of suicide, so people don’t want to talk about it.”

Sheffield said this knowledge is crucial and cannot wait.

“People all around them are contemplating, at this very moment, ending their lives. With this training, they can be the person who stops that from happening,” he said. “It’s better to get the training before than to react afterward. This event will help do that.”

Eddins said it is a topic that few people think about until it is too late. She urges members of the community to take the time to be prepared and to be ready if the opportunity ever comes to save a life.

“We want to raise awareness and provide people the opportunity to get training to get the tools they need to respond. … People take first-aid classes, such as CPR, not because people aren’t breathing around them all the time, but because sometimes there’s an emergency,” said Eddins. “It’s the same way with suicide prevention. We want to make sure people have the skills to act before this kind of emergency happens.”