Northern Harford church to host suicide prevention program

With what religious leaders say is an increase in the number of suicides in recent months, particularly among teenagers, a Pylesville church is reaching out to the community to provide hope.

St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church is hosting a QPR (question, persuade, refer) gatekeeper training on suicide prevention on Feb. 20 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“There have been an onset of suicides in the United States, some of them occurring close to us in this area,” said Lee Surkin, a parishioner at St. Mary’s, who is organizing the training session.

It’s one of three programs the church will host in the coming months.

“We are reaching out to our community to let them know we’re aware of certain things in the world that are going on and to make sure people get some education on,” Surkin said. “If you notice something, maybe you can save a life.”

The Feb. 20 session is geared toward adults and will be led by Katie Badders, a licensed social worker, who is a certified prevention professional with the Harford County Department of Community Services, Surkin said.

A former teacher at Eastern York High School in Pennsylvania, Surkin said there were several suicides, and suicide attempts, in the Southeastern School District and in northern Harford County in the last year.

St. Mary’s Church, which has about 900 families, draws members from Maryland and Pennsylvania.

This training will help parents and other adults understand suicide and what they can do to help persuade or refer someone who’s going through emotional problems or contemplating suicide, Surkin, a bailiff in Harford County District Court, who is also a former Baltimore City Police officer, said.

People who attend the program will receive a QPR booklet with warning signs of suicide and methods to encourage help and will be given a list of community resources.

“This is something that has come to light because it’s in the news. It’s happening around us. This will give people more of an understanding of what they can do to save a life,” Surkin said. “We want them to be able to understand that their hands aren’t tied and they can act to do something about it if they see it.”

Ideally, he said, after people have the training, they will be able to evaluate a situation, to look and see if something is going on and move in the right direction to get a person help.

The upcoming programs are part of St. Mary’s evangelization efforts, Surkin said.

“We’re reaching out to the community and people relative to the church,” he said. “When you evangelize, you’re not trying to persuade someone to join your church, you’re trying to let them know that you care, that you care about the community, you care about their well being and hopefully their faith will come through with that.”

On April 13, the church will host the Harford County Sheriff’s Office’s active shooter program and in June will host a drug awareness program (a date has not been set).

Surkin said they would like to have a panel from the Harford Office of Drug Control Policy and the Sheriff’s Office HOPE trailer, designed to teach parents, friends and relatives what and where to look for signs of drug abuse, at the church for the program.

“We want people to understand that we’re not just here for self-service. We are here to reach out and let people know that we are, we want to supply them with as many resources as possible relative to things like this,” Surkin said, “to make people aware of what’s going on, what we can do and how we or they can help in solving some of these problems in the world.”

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