This past Wednesday I had the privilege to present at the  14th Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference.  As I sat listening to the opening remarks, “All or Non: Forces for Change Towards Zero Suicides” I looked around the  room, filled beyond capacity, and thought about the power of connection and collaboration.

These qualities can bring together a united front dedicated to the goal of “zero suicides in systems of care”.  I have been dedicated to this cause from my early 20’s.  I believe we are now experiencing a shift from silence and darkness, to a true open dialog.  The conversations give us momentum to push forward to create sustainable changes.  While Massachusetts has one of the nation’s lowest suicide rates, we are extremely fortunate to have funding from our legislature that allows us to pursue education and prevention.

Suicide prevention is part of everyone’s job.  The audience consisted of an extremely diverse group, including professionals, survivors and loved ones.  By coming together we can move to a culture that recognizes depression and other risk factors, and reaches out to insure that there is always a connection available to save a life.

On Thursday, May 7th, The Plymouth Country DA’s Office and Brockton Area Opiod Coalition are hosting a conference, “Collaborating for Change”.  I will be moderating a panel on Effective Collaboration and Change.  The panel consists of 3 groups, all shining stars, who have not stood on the sidelines.  They have stepped up and out to serve as leaders working collaboratively to build sustainable community based approaches to reducing substance abuse and it corollary impacts.  My conversations with Peter Holden, CEO Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Plymouth, and Dr. Gary Maestas, Superintendent of Schools Plymouth, highlight the possibilities and power of connection and collaboration.  From a 600 mile bike ride they took together from Washington , D.C. to Plymouth, stopping along the way to speak to auditoriums filled with teens to their work in Plymouth with the Plymouth Youth Development Coalition, they are pooling resources, bringing together levels of influence and inviting the entire community to come together to address the big picture of positive mental and physical health for youth.

Connection and collaboration represent the harnessing of the power of people believing and taking leadership.  Everyone has the capacity to take a seat at the table and join in the mission of creating an open dialog that has no stigma and will save lives.