Expert to address possible 'suicide contagion' in Campbell County

(Gillette, Wyo.) "This is everyone's responsibility." So says crisis management expert Frank Zenere, who arrived in Gillette Monday in advance of a suicide prevention & postvention community forum that will be hosted by Gillette College Thursday night. "Sometimes it helps to have a pair of objective eyes and ears from the outside to gain some insight," Zenere told County 17. He was last in Gillette seven years ago, bringing in his experience as a school psychologist with the Miami-Dade school system. His years dealing with school and community crisis situations has led him all across the country and the world, helping communities manage the well-being of school students and their parents in the face of disasters or critical incidents. "We are very excited to have Mr. Zenere back in the school district again," said Kip Farnum, Director of Student Support Services. "When he presented to us seven years ago, he was so informative and helped us to move to a new level with prevention, intervention and postvention. I am sure that he will take us to new heights again." Zenere has responded to suicide "cluster events" -- also known as copycat suicides, or emulation suicides -- before. In Gillette, as he does with each case, he'll use data and research to try and pinpoint where the community needs to go to "bring an end to this ongoing contagion process that appears to be at work." Several closed training sessions are taking place today and tomorrow with the Collective Impact Project, Campbell County Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Prevention Management Organization, and the Campbell County School District's administrators, counselling professionals, and nursing staff. "I'll try to talk about the concerns brought up community-wide," he said of this week's workshops. "This type of situation that has developed really is a safety issue for the entire community, and it's not the job of one group, or one agency, to try to do it all by themselves. This is beyond the scope of just what a school district can do. Everybody has to really have a keen sense of awareness and vigilance for what's happening." From conversations with local care-givers, he knows that most Campbell County agencies are well aware of the warning signs of suicide. Beyond that, he wants to help examine real solutions to this problem. But so far, he's been pleased by how far we've come in the past few years when dealing with suicide. "At this point, it appears there's been a great deal done already by the community, and I'm encouraged that a lot of the pieces have been put in place already." While he plans on making a presentation Thursday night to the public, what he's really looking forward to is the open question and answer session from local residents. He's hoping he can generate enough conversation among Gillette's families to really figure out what it is the city needs, and how we can get it. And the scope of his work is not just focused on youth suicide. "A lot of what I talk about is beneficial for everyone regardless of their age. Like how a parent can explain suicide to a small child." An Evening with Frank Zenere takes place in the presentation hall of Gillette College on Thursday, April 7th, starting at 6:30 p.m. It is open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to attend. "We never know how beneficial prevention is," Zenere added. "We only know that when a tragedy does happen, it hurts." #county17 #news