Diocesan personnel taking part in Suspenders4Hope training

Jessica Provines, Ph.D., wears a Suspenders4Hope T-shirt that states “#WeSupportU”, an association with Wichita State University’s WSU abbreviation.

Training is open to the public

The diocesan training on Aug. 22 will be presented in collaboration with WSU, Ascension Via Christi, the Via Christi Foundation, and the Catholic Assembly for Business and is free to the public. Lunch and free Suspenders4Hope shirts will be provided. Sign up at http://www.cabwichita.org/.

The Diocese of Wichita is partnering with Wichita State University to address the region’s mental health and substance use crisis.

The diocese is taking part in Suspenders4Hope, a program co-led by Jessica Provines, assistant vice president for Wellness and chief psychologist at WSU.

Diocesan personnel will be trained Tuesday, Aug. 22, in Good Shepherd Hall at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The training is open to the public.

United effort to address mental health

“We think it’s really critical that we unite public, private, and nonprofits to help address the mental health of our community and help reduce despair bringing hope to people in times of despair,” Provines said.

A lifelong St. Francis of Assisi parishioner, Provines said Suspenders4Hope was originally developed by the university as a campus suicide prevention measure.

But those involved in the program wanted to reach beyond the campus, she said. To do so they partnered with Ascension Via Christi.

“We’ve just continued to expand our community reach. Part of a national strategy for health, mental wellness promotion, and suicide prevention is to partner with faith communities. We saw a real opportunity here in Wichita with Ascension Via Christi, with Wichita State University’s support, and with the Catholic diocese, to help people in the strong Catholic community we have here in Wichita.”

Discussion reduces stigma

The stigma associated with mental health is reduced the more it’s discussed, Provines said.

“It helps people heal and it helps us support and accompany others in times of sorrow – and so many of us don’t really know how to do that,” she said.

The Suspenders4Hope training will give participants the tools to recognize when someone may be in distress, help them know how to talk to people about their mental health, what the local resources are, and provide tools to help take care of their own mental health. These are tools and resources that business can use to address their mental health culture.

“Our campaign is really all about shifting our current culture of silence to a culture of shared responsibility, caring, and most importantly, support – that we are all connected as human beings and we’re responsible for taking care of each other,” Provines said.

Previous event fueled her motivation

She added that her personal motivation behind the Suspenders4Hope program was fueled by her own experience with depression and later when she lost a student who had come to her for help to suicide.

“That inspired me to transform that suffering into a program that can help our community. It really was faith and the grace of God that put it on my heart to want to work closely with the diocese that helped form me.”

One of the program’s short-term goals is to unite the Wichita community to address mental health and suicide in Sedgwick County. Suspenders4Hope has also partnered with organizations outside of Kansas, she said to “help us all do better and accompany each other in our pain.”

Program is healing

Provides said those presenting the training are sensitive to everyone’s experience.

“It can be kind of scary to come to a training like this, particularly if you’re still grieving or struggling yourself,” she said. “But I think that the program can actually be quite healing. It can help make sense of a loss that’s very difficult to understand. This whole program is about showing love and compassion to people in crisis. It’s about understanding the healing power of forgiveness for ourselves and belief in divine mercy in this issue.”