New Blue Sign Helps ACTS Help Others

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By Olivia Overman

Sponsored by Action In Community Through Service (ACTS)

Action In Community Through Service (ACTS) recently placed a new blue sign on the Route 123 Occoquan Bridge. This blue sign displays the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-8255). The number is a lifeline for those considering suicide and a complement to the services ACTS provides.

Sign installation is a joint effort

The installation of the sign was made possible by a collaboration between county officials, including Andrea Hess from Prince William Community Services (PWCS), VDOT and the Board of County Supervisors. Cynthia Dudley, executive director of Trillium Center Inc., which provides peer support to people with mental illness, and Victoria Graham, chief program officer at ACTS, come together to make it happen.

“I heard about the need for a sign in July from Andrea Hess at Community Services,” said Dudley. “I wasn’t aware that people were using that bridge for suicide attempts prior to that meeting.” According to Occoquan Police Department records, there have been five incidents of people planning to jump off the Route 123 bridge over the last 10 years. Yet there was no information on where those people could go for help.

Dudley learned that VDOT believed putting a sign on the bridge would encourage people to attempt suicide, rather than preventing people from doing so. The sign was successfully installed on the Occoquan bridge six months from the meeting. “Promoting access to lifesaving means” at bridges, like signage or other public information, saves lives, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This is exactly what this sign is providing.

Dudley had designed a sign that included more information on ways to connect with Lifeline. However, the actual sign installed had to be similar to the ones already in use in Virginia. There’s a similar sign visible on the Rappahannock bridge. “Since the little blue signs have been installed, I have spoken with Supervisors Angry and Boddye… [B]oth are committed to installing more signs around the county where they are needed. I am confident we can get all of the BOCS on board. I have reached out to folks in the CIT network (Crisis Intervention Teams)… [W]e are attempting to determine where more signs could be placed,” said Dudley.

Services for those impacted by suicide

ACTS provides a number of services for those impacted by suicide, including a “24 hour crisis hotline, and Surviving After Suicide (support group for friends and/or family members who have lost a loved one to suicide). ACTS also offers Parents of Suicide Loss (support group for parents who have lost a child of any age to suicide), community training in suicide prevention, intervention, and post-vention,” said Graham.

“I am grateful to Vicki Graham from ACTS and Heather Martinsen from Community Services for bringing their expertise to the table,” said Dudley. “We have champions here who work every single day to do what we can to make it better for people living with mental illness. And when something comes up that needs to be done, we figure out how to do it,” she said.

If you’ve been struggling with thoughts of suicide, feeling hopeless, lonely, isolated or worried about someone, please call ACTS Helpline (703) 368-4141.

With a mission to instill hope, provide relief and to promote self-sufficiency for our neighbors in crisis in the Greater Prince William area, ACTS is working towards creating a community where no one goes without or suffers alone. Through the services and programs we offer, we believe while people may come to us in crisis, they will leave filled with hope, concrete relief and the tools to succeed without us.

 

Olivia Overman (ooverman@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned a M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.

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