MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Marquette County Health Department (MCHD) has been awarded funds from the State of Michigan for suicide prevention activities an initiatives. The focus is on young adults, ages 18 to 24 who are not enrolled in a four-year University.

We spoke with Sarah Derwin, a Health Educator with the MCHD, who said they have received other state grants in the recent past working with suicide prevention. Those grants have allowed them to build infrastructure in Marquette County. It includes resources like the Marquette County Suicide Prevention Alliance.

“With those grants, it’s always an opportunity to build on that work and keep some of that work going. We’re able to sustain some of that work in between and shift focuses to different areas. In past grants we’ve helped school age kids or schools. This grant has a slightly different focus for the target group so that’s really important that we keep work in suicide prevention and postvention continuing in our county,” said Derwin.

Those grants have allowed them to build a mental health infrastructure in Marquette County and focus the most recent funding on this specific group.

“They might be our co-workers. we might see them at different businesses and organizations around town. They might work in the trades and work out of our community and come back. Since they are harder to identify, making sure we’re connected to them is really important,” said Derwin.

Derwin said making those meaningful connections means identifying things like if they’re having a tough time, who do they talk to? Or do they talk to anyone?

“One thing we found out is young adults in the area is that they really enjoy outdoor recreation and being outside.” Derwin continued, “So we posted information at different trail heads in the county. It’s really understanding and respecting this group to find out how do you get your information and how do we get this information to you?”

One of the goals of the grant is to offer suicide prevention gatekeeper training to area organizations, businesses and community groups. To become a gatekeeper, it only takes about an hour or an hour and a half.

“Anyone in our community can be a gatekeeper. What a gatekeeper is, sometimes we’ll lichen it to knowing CPR. So you know these basic skills that can help save a life. Same thing, QPR, we’re teaching you some basic skills that could help save a life. We’re teaching you a little bit about signs to look for or maybe things someone is saying that could have you concerned. And then we teach you a little bit about connecting them to resources.” Derwin said they’ve seen communities where more people receive this training have lower suicide rates.

Another way the MCHD is connecting with people is by restarting and expanding survivors of suicide loss support groups.

“We’ve had a long-standing group that’s met in Marquette, once a month for many years. Due to COVID, there was a pause on that. We’re really excited that the group is going to start back up in May. We’re also very excited that we’re going to be offering a brand new group to the Ishpeming area. That’s a resource that hasn’t existed before now,” said Derwin.

That group is set to start in April at the Great Lakes Recovery Adolescent Services Community Room.

The trainings are free. Contact Sarah Derwin to set up a training session.