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Mai-Lan Spiegel

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will meet on Thursday, August 21, 2017, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.  The public is welcome to attend.

Colleges must provide counseling after a student suicide

By Mai-Lan Spiegel, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – When a college student commits suicide, it can shake the campus to its core, as other students struggle with grief, perhaps guilt and a range of emotions.

Beginning next school year, public colleges and universities in Virginia will have to offer counseling and other services to students after such tragedies. The requirement is the result of Senate Bill 1430, which was unanimously passed by the General Assembly this year.

“The board of visitors of each baccalaureate public institution of higher education shall develop and implement policies that ensure that after a student suicide, affected students have access to reasonable medical and behavioral health services, including postvention services,” the bill states.

It defines “postvention services” as “services designed to facilitate the grieving or adjustment process, stabilize the environment, reduce the risk of negative behaviors, and prevent suicide contagion.”

SB 1430 was proposed by Sen. Bryce E. Reeves of Fredericksburg. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed it into law in March. It will take effect July 1.

Existing law requires colleges to have procedures to identify and help students who may be suicidal. The new law goes a step further by mandating what schools should do to help other students after a suicide.

Virginia Commonwealth University, among other schools, already offers postvention services after a student death. Last fall, for example, two VCU students died after falling from the Towers on Franklin apartment building. Jordan Bowman, 18, died in September, and Emma Pascal, 19, in October.

Authorities have not ruled the deaths suicides. However, some news outlets initially reported that the students had “jumped” to their death, implying self-infliction. Experts say that such gossip can lead to suicide contagion or “copycat suicides.”

This phenomenon is also known as the Werther effect, after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 18th-century novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” David Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California at San Diego,coined the term in 1974. In his research, he found that suicides seemed to rise after a well-publicized suicide.

“Hearing about suicide seems to make those who are vulnerable feel they have the permission to do it,” Phillips said.

An associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, Dr. E. David Klonsky, said that when a suicide happens nearby, it can make other people see suicide as an option.

“Learning that someone from one’s community has died by suicide, especially when the person is a peer or colleague, can make suicide seem more realistic and attainable, especially if the method of suicide has been publicized and is available to others,” Klonsky said.

Emma Pascal’s mother, Cindy Pascal, who is a mental health counselor, said she supported Reeves’ bill.

“Even if it is a death that is questionable, there should be counseling provided to kids because the adolescent brain is amazing and brilliant but it also very fragile,” Pascal said.

Dr. Jihad Aziz, the director of Student Counseling Services at VCU, said the bill won’t affect the university greatly because it already provides postvention services.

“If the death of a student is on campus or near campus, we go to the site for support, and it’s part of our postvention and intervention services,” Aziz said. “We will also go to the classrooms and faculty. Students who are grieving come in without having to fill out paperwork, and they always have access to our crisis line.”

Aziz said VCU has a range of suicide prevention services and activities. For instance, every year, the university holds an Out of Darkness Walk, aimed at raising suicide awareness. Also, resident assistants and other dormitory staff members receive “Question, Persuade, Refer” training to recognize when a student is showing signs of distress.


Help is available to prevent suicide

If you or somebody you know is struggling with self-harm or has suicidal thoughts, contact a counselor. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. VCU also has a hotline at 804-828-3964.


Planned Parenthood honors Gov. McAuliffe with award

By Mai-Lan Spiegel, VCU Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Virginia League of Planned Parenthood honored Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week for supporting reproductive rights and vetoing legislation that would have defunded the nonprofit organization.

McAuliffe received the Mary Anne Rennolds Award, named after the VLPP’s first board chair, at a ceremony Wednesday night at the Glave Kocen Gallery in Richmond.

“The governor has been a champion for reproductive rights and protecting women’s health from the very beginning of his time in office,” said Allison Cooper, Planned Parenthood’s current board chair. “This award represents our appreciation for his unwavering commitment to ensuring access to affordable and high-quality health care for everyone who walks through our doors.”

In February, for the second year in a row, McAuliffe vetoed a billthat would have prohibited the state from providing grants or contracts to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions. Republicans wanted to channel the money to other health clinics that they say provide more comprehensive services.

In accepting the award, McAuliffe said laws and regulations restricting women’s health affect the state’s economy.

“We are a different state today than we were three years ago,” he said. “Women are treated with dignity and respect, and that is how we’ve been able to create so many jobs – by being open and welcoming to everyone.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who gave the keynote address at the award ceremony, echoed that message.

“To start throwing roadblocks and obstacles for women, it will change our ability to attract the best and the brightest to the city,” the mayor said.

Stoney said he knows the importance of Planned Parenthood because he himself was once a client.

“My first year in Richmond after I graduated from James Madison, I also used Planned Parenthood,” Stoney said. “I wasn’t making a lot of money, and I needed health care.”

Stoney reflected on his time at James Madison University when, as student body president, he was introduced to Planned Parenthood. He rallied opposition to efforts by state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, to discontinue the distribution of the morning-after pill on campus.

“They got their way that day, but we were persistent. We waited it out till (then-Gov.) Mark Warner appointed some new members to the Board of Visitors. And sure enough, we re-enacted the engagement of the morning-after pill, and we called that a win.”

In his address, Stoney listed some of the VLPP services that he learned about during his first visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic.

“From the women who can now afford regular checkups, to the men who receive life-saving prostate exams, to the children who benefit from proper prenatal care – our community needs Planned Parenthood,” Stoney said.

According to the current president and CEO of the VLPP, Paulette McElwain, the number of people who use Planned Parenthood’s services continues to grow.

“In March, we had a record number of 3,300 visits,” she said. “And this year, we are expected to see over 36,000 visits.”

McElwain congratulated the organization’s sex education program in the Newport News public school system. Since the program started in 2012, Newport News has seen a decrease of 40 percent in its teen pregnancy rate, she said. The program is expected to expand to the Suffolk area in the next three years.

During the awards ceremony, Stoney congratulated McAuliffe on being “a brick wall” against legislation that would roll back abortion rights.

Earlier in the week, the governor received the Brick Wall Award from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, an abortion rights advocacy group.

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