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VA Central Western Massachusetts 2019 Annual Mental Health Summit

In the last 10 years or so, both VA and public awareness about suicide has skyrocketed.  The Veterans Crisis Line and other major programs have been implemented to educate and intervene in crisis situations resulting in countless lives saved.  Still veterans are taking their own lives at a rate of about 20 per day and suicide remains the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Speaker 1 –

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the author of The Lifesaving Church: Faith Communities and Suicide Prevention (Chalice Press, 2018), and pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ in Minneapolis, MN. She’s a favored conference presenter on topics related to the church and mental health, particularly suicide and congregations. Previously, she served as clinical chaplain at a state psychiatric hospital where she worked with patients, staff, clergy, and faith communities to increase understanding and welcome of persons living with severe and persistent symptoms of mental illness. She also served on a State Suicide Prevention Council.

Changing the Culture of Shame

It is no secret that suicide rates are climbing. We also know that faith communities often remain silent about suicide, contributing to stigma and shame. Intentionally examining our theology around suicide may save lives. Faith communities have a significant role in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. It’s time to break the silence, shatter the stigma, and save lives.



Speaker 2 – Chaplain Steve Sullivan

Steve Sullivan serves as the Implementation Lead for the VA Community Clergy Training Program (CCTP). This program involves 27 VA chaplains and others as trainers for community clergy to help them better understand and support veterans and their families. Steve has served as a hospital and VA chaplain for the last 15 years. He helped create the VA/Clergy Partnership for Rural Veterans in 2009. This partnership brings together community clergy, mental health providers, and others to help veterans gain access to both VA and community care and support. Steve worked to establish six ongoing VA/Clergy “community action boards” (CABs) in rural sites throughout Arkansas. Steve now serves as co-leader of our “Collaborating in Care: Ministry and Mental Health” trainings. Steve grew up in Arkansas, and studied at Baylor, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Princeton Seminary. He is an adjunct faculty member for Memphis Theological Seminary and a huge Grizzlies fan. His academic interests are in community response to moral injury, war and the soul in Asia, and theology and pop culture.


Abundant Life: Life Promotion as Suicide Prevention

The time has come for a more proactive, upstream approach to suicide prevention.  What if we dedicated ourselves to starting people living life?  Promoting life options is something faith communities and others have been doing for centuries. Giving people something to look forward to may be more important than ever.  Let’s not wait until a service member or veteran is in a hopeless state before we spring into action.  Let’s meet veterans where they are in our communities and give them something to live for.

Social Work Ceu’s through Elms College


This program is being offered as collaboration between the VA of Central Western MA and the Human Service Forum.  Presenters are being brought to us through the generous support of the VA.  Following our speakers, there will be a veteran lead panel discussion from 1:30-2:30pm.


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