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Help yourself by helping someone else.

That’s the idea behind the Caring Contact Corps that Hamilton-based licensed clinical depression counselor Barb Lucas hopes to create in a pair of free workshops Friday focused on helping people heal from either the loss of loved ones or their own struggles with suicide.

While Montana is often rated as the No. 1 state for suicide, Lucas said it’s not an issue that people are very willing to open up about and discuss.

Because of the stigma that’s attached to suicide, the people who most need help are often the most isolated, she said.

Lucas hopes to begin to change that at least here in Ravalli County.

The two free workshops are for people who have either experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide or who have attempted suicide themselves.

The workshops are not designed to be therapy sessions or as support groups. Instead, Lucas said the focus will be on developing a service group where people will be asked to help create “caring contact cards” that will be used in the future to help those who have either been hospitalized or gone through a crisis stabilization program stay connected with their caregivers.

The idea comes from an effort dating back to the 1970s. A pair of psychiatrists from California started writing handwritten notes to people who had attempted suicide following their discharge from a medical facility. They found that simple act of connecting with people helped reduce the occurrence of secondary suicide attempts.

“They discovered that it was important that people knew that they were remembered,” Lucas said. “It was important that they felt connected with someone. Isolation is the No. 1 risk factor for suicide. This state is so rural. It is so easy to feel isolated in Montana.”

The groups will help create the “caring contact cards” that will be donated to local hospital and crisis centers. The staff at those locations will be able to use the cards to make contact with people after they leave their facilities.

“It’s a way that we can help survivors,” Lucas said.

And it’s a way that people who have experienced suicide can help themselves.

“I think creativity can help people heal,” Lucas said. “Eliminating isolation heals. Eliminating the stigma heals. And giving back to someone else heals too … We heal ourselves when we serve others.

“I really believe the Bitterroot Valley will get behind this service,” she said. “People who live in this valley know the meaning of service to others.”

At this point, Lucas said she’s not certain whether Friday night’s workshops will be a one-time offering or if something else will come from them.

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Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.