The SAM Foundation: Check on your family and friends

May is always Mental Health Awareness month, but during these uncertain times, focusing on our mental health and checking on our friends and family has never been more crucial.

“Isolation can lead to mental health challenges we may didn’t even know existed. Those with existing mental health illnesses will more than likely have exacerbated symptoms,” said Nicole Goggans, Alabama program coordinator for the SAM Foundation, which promotes suicide prevention efforts in DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall and five other counties.

To reduce anxiety, she recommends maintaining digital connections with people to overcome feelings of isolation and be a model for others, including children. People should focus on things they can control such as their thoughts and behaviors, letting wisdom and logic guide them instead of being influenced by fear, as happens when people hoard supplies. People should keep the big picture in mind and remember that humankind will survive this pandemic, just as they have past ones.

Goggans said it is also important to control how often a person checks the latest news and remember that the size of news coverage about the pandemic may not equal the size of a threat. She recommended turning to reputable sources for news and avoiding getting information from social media feeds that may be filled with unfounded conspiracy theories and disinformation.

Even before the stress and depression brought on by a killer virus and economic despair, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. for all ages, taking the lives of more than 44,965 Americans every year. Two people per day took their own lives in Alabama.

The key to alleviating these deaths is noting the definite warning signs that 80 percent of people who die from suicide give others.

The SAM Foundation is taking on the challenge with a couple of upcoming classes to educate everyone on how to prevent a loved one from dying by suicide.

“Since meeting in large groups is still not an option at this time, the group has decided to start training people virtually in topics ranging from learning basic “QPR” (Question, Persuade, Refer) to more professional suicide prevention training for mental health providers (AMSR),” Goggans said.

Three classes for QPR training for suicide prevention were held this week, but Goggans said they were so full they removed them from the website.

“We do have availability in next week’s QPR classes, planned for Monday the 18th and Tuesday the 19th. You can go to to register. We can take 35 people per class now instead of 15 we previously advertised,” Goggans said.

Participants learn how to ask the question, how to persuade the individual to get the help they need and then where to refer them for help. If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 741741.

“SAM Foundation provides this training at no cost to participants to make our communities suicide-safe,” Goggans said.

“You never know when you may need to use these life-saving skills, so please take advantage of this opportunity for free education in suicide prevention! Now go call a loved one and check on them.”

A six-hour class for mental health professionals led by Tony Watkins will be held May 22 from 8:30-4:30. This program can be useful for social workers, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses and educators. To learn more on managing and assessing suicide risk patients, go register at The deadline for registration is Monday, May 18 in order for everyone to receive their materials before the training.

To learn more about the SAM Foundation’s programs, visit

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