|James Butler, pastor of Stephens Chapel United Methodist Church and event organizer, hopes to get the word out and prevent suicide with the African American Suicide Prevention Community Conference from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday at Patterson Park Community Center.
“The community support has been great. We’re excited about what’s going on,” he told The Murfreesboro Post. Butler helped produce similar conferences in Nashville and felt that Murfreesboro was missing such an event. “I introduced the concept into our area. This will be our third annual event.”
Butler wants the community to know that although the title refers to African Americans, the event is open to everyone, regardless of race or religious faith.
“Yes, this is open to all members of the community. We have members from all racial groups. The conference is a gathering of people in our local community. They will receive information about depression, mental illness and other things that lead people to that place in their lives where they will be considering suicide,” he said.
Mental health professionals will be in attendance, as well as people who have attempted suicide and the families of suicide victims, all of whom will discuss their experiences with suicide.
“This will be a cross-section of people from the community,” Butler said.
At the conference, attendees will discover what resources are available and what they can do to help prevent suicides.
Sometimes mental illnesses and depression are overlooked in the African American community because the signs aren’t taken seriously.
The most famous example was the late soul singer Phyllis Hyman, who committed suicide in 1995 after struggling with depression for years.
“The suicide rates (among African Americans) are rising. We used to say in the community that black people don’t kill themselves but we’re seeing the numbers rising,” said Butler. As a result of this issue, the event was titled, “Breaking the silence.”
Butler says that he and other religious leaders are trying to get rid of the stigma. He encourages people to receive the help they need if they consider suicide.
“Go get help. It doesn’t mean your faith is weak or that you’re a bad christian. God has many means of help for us that works in many different ways.”
Patterson Park Community Center is located at 521 Mercury Blvd., in Murfreesboro.
To register, contact Kim Rush at email@example.com and enter the words, “Breaking the silence,” in the subject line. For more information on the conference, call 615-898-0771 or 615-542-2364.
The conference is sponsored by several organizations, including The United Healthcare Community Plan, The Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, The Metro Public Health Department, The Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, and Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital.