Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention plans upcoming awareness events


A local organization is helping to bring haunted hayrides to Dalton, a public forum to the Berkshire Museum, and an all-day Veterans Expo to the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield during the next few weeks.

Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention is co-sponsoring these three upcoming events, which all promise to further the agency's goals in one way or another.

A flier for the Dalton hayride -- Purgatory Road Haunted Hayride -- dares potential attendees to go on a "horrific journey" along Cleveland Road. The event takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and will be repeated at the same time on Oct. 25 and 26.

Tickets cost $10. All proceeds benefit the coalition, specifically its teen suicide prevention programming.

This marks the haunted hayride's second year in operation.

"The group of parents [who organize and put on the hayride] approached us last year to see if they could help," said Peggy Morse, a survivor advocate through the coalition. "[In that year] there were around 50 volunteers -- parents, kids, sports teams, a drama group -- who put on the hayride and they raised over $10,000."

On Nov. 6, Steve and Deb Boczenowski, of Groton, will put on their successful Teenage Anxiety & Depression Solutions presentation at the Berkshire Museum for parents and guardians seeking a better understanding of teenage mental wellness issues.

The couple's son Jeffrey died by suicide in 2009 and they subsequently established a nonprofit to bring resources to other parents. That event will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the museum's Little Cinema.

The Veterans Expo, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 15, will offer local veterans various services including education, benefits eligibility assistance, job search strategies, behavioral health services and wellness activities.

Keynote speaker Kevin Lambert -- a veteran injured multiple times during a 16-month tour of duty in Iraq -- will address the crowd during lunch. Meals are provided.

According to Morse, the coalition's efforts have had a positive effect on lowering youth suicide rates in the county in recent years.

Massachusetts Coalition For Suicide Prevention Managing Director Jennifer Kelliher said a bill currently under consideration in the State House seeks to bolster these efforts statewide by requiring two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training for all public school employees.

She said a panel recently spoke in favor of the bill inside the House.

"They really made a solid case for why this is a crucial piece of legislation," Kelliher said.

In the county, though, as the number of youth suicides has dipped, suicides among middle-aged and elderly men and women has crept up. This will become more of a focus for the coalition in the future, Morse said.

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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