Whistles, bells, and sirens . . . oh my!

Whistles, bells, and sirens . . . oh my!

This is a 2-part essay. If you are uncomfortable with one topic, feel free to move to the other topic, and consider it an opportunity to create awareness. Both of these topics are timely and worthy of serious consideration, while also touching on some sensitive subjects.

The most recent past blog entry addressed mental health concerns in a broad sense, with some ideas and resources that are available in the public domain for additional information. I had feedback from some loyal readers suggesting it was too general, and others who said it was unnecessarily discouraging. Let me forge ahead on the topic of mental health in two very recent media presentations of serious concern. The Minneapolis Tribune of Sunday May 1, 2016 published a front-page article regarding the sharp increase in suicides in Minnesota. According to the MN Department of Health, 700 people in our state die annually of suicide. Tthis is a 30% increase since 2014; this death rate is far ahead of homicides, and twice the rate of deaths from motor vehicle accidents. This data encompasses all ethnic and economic groups. The emphasis is to identify trends and increase prevention efforts. There is no health department program that can be “pulled off the shelf” and applied universally relative to suicide prevention.

Also on Sunday May 1, 2016, there was a television news presentation on the topic of the alarming and recent increase in heroin deaths. The headline for this is “Heroin is making a home in Minnesota.”. The link to this is www.KARE11.com/heroin. Heroin overdose deaths are often accidental; some others are intended suicide deaths. With these two media accounts so recently and so very locally-centered, let's talk to one another and those we love to acknowledge these illnesses and encourage prevention and treatment. As journalist Chris Serres wrote in the Trib: “Small things matter . . . a smile and warm greeting, friendly conversations, encouragement, and expressions of hope.. . . sometimes it's enough to simple listen.”

Crisis Connection hotline in MN: 612-379-6363

Suicide Prevention Hotline, nationwide: 1-800-273-8255

Put these numbers in an easily-accessible place; you don't know when you may encounter a person or situation that requires help.

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Pastor Deb asked me to attend a meeting in March entitled “Emergency Preparedness Training and Regional Recovery Collaborative.” This was presented and sponsored by the City of Minneapolis Health Department and the Hennepin County Human Services Emergency Preparedness department.

There is a role for faith communities in such disasters that we all hear in the news but we hope will never happen “in our backyard.” Think back to where you were when: the 35W bridge collapsed, when 9/11 happened, when the F1 tornado hit North Minneapolis, or the F5 tornado hit Joplin MO. Think about the all-too-common school shootings, bombings of public buildings, social unrest that becomes violent. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross are first-line responders to help people in such situations; and all response requires coordination and advanced planning.

The mission of county and city govenrments is public safety which begins with pre-planning and encompasses basic human needs of shelter, housing, food, water, hygeine supplies; there is great cost in returning to “normal.” These public service goals include supporting the 'return to normal life' in terms of basic needs just mentioned above, as well as power, water, return to employment, health care, schools, social services, psychological and spiritual needs.

The role of faith-based organizations in such disasters may include identifying individuals in the community who are known to be vulnerable in terms of challenges with mobility, fragile health status, limited hearing or sight. For example, think of those who depend on supplemental oxygen at home, if there is suddenly no electricity available. Even battery back-up has a time limit. Our responsibility as a faith community, would “simply” be to identify those individuals to the official county and city recovery staff who could propvide immediate relief and referral.

Another probable option is that our church may be asked to provide space to set up a phone bank, for county and city staff to do their work. Another possibility would be in response to a tornado, we may be asked to provide space in our building for the Salvation Army or Red Cross to set up cots for people displaced by a disaster. Reminder: those organizations also provide the bedding, bottled water, and other hygeine needs as needed; it is not the church responsibility to stockpile supplies for such eventualities.

The post-disaster role of institutions includes:

·         communication of what and where services are available;

·         advocating for people's needs;

·         feedback after actions have been taken;

·         reminder, FYI: local jurisdiction takes the lead of a disaster event.

There will be more information and resources available on these topics later this spring and into the summer. For immediate feedback from readers, my email is nurse@goodshepherdmpls.org;

In case you are wondering, yes, I am a certified public health nurse. And yes, May 6th is National Nurses' Day. You're welcome.