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6 March 2008

JSU Hosts Suicide Prevention Workshop

Susan Howell leads the 'Dealing with Depression and Suicide Prevention' workshop at JSU. Photo: Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star

By Matt Kasper
Star Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Susan Howell's million dollar question: What causes depression?

"If I had the answer to that," she says, smiling and shrugging Wednesday at the beginning of a depression and suicide prevention workshop at Jacksonville State University.

On the classroom board in the Theron Montgomery Building, Howell, who works at the Calhoun-Cleburne Mental Health Center in Anniston, writes down words that people associate with depression. Sad, lonely and suicide all make it onto the board.

What's notable is the absence of qualities such as changes in appetite, sleep problems and a lack of energy, she says.

The workshop was sponsored by JSU Counseling and Career Services, the student chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Disability Support Services titled "Dealing with Depression & Suicide Prevention: Creating Lifelines."

Howell said learning about methods of detecting and coping with depression can help save a life.

For instance, a common myth about suicide is that people who don't talk about it don't do it, she said.

"Some people make up their mind and get a peace about them," she said.

Medical treatment sometimes is necessary to help people cope with the chemical imbalances that stoke depression and lead to suicide, she said.

Another danger associated with suicide and depression is that it can feed a cycle, especially if someone feels guilty and becomes depressed following the suicide of a friend or family member.

Howell said many people don't want to end their lives so much as end the pain.

Helping people in most cases means asking questions early and taking them seriously if they complain about symptoms such as lack of sleep or unexplained feelings of nervousness.

"Friends say they are depressed, but how do you know if they are playing or for real?" asked Shevon Young, a sophomore in nursing at JSU.

It's difficult to tell, Howell said, because people have a tendency to exaggerate their conditions.

Linda Shelton, the lead counselor with Counseling and Career Services, says she circulates a letter a student wrote about coping with suicide to help others.

About Matt Kasper

Matthew Kasper covers Jacksonville, Piedmont, Ohatchee and Alexandria for The Anniston Star.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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