On Saturday, medical professionals and motivational speakers will address the stigma surrounding the topic of suicide and shed light on California’s End of Life Option Act, as USC Verdugo Hills Hospital hosts its third annual Suicide Awareness and Prevention Conference.
Held in conjunction with Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on Sept. 10, the inaugural event was started in 2016 to respond to community members grieving the deaths of local teens in La Cañada and La Crescenta who took their lives, according to hospital officials.
“Every three years we do a needs assessment to determine the needs of the community, and behavioral health is generally in the top five issues that affect our community,” said Keith Hobbs, chief executive of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. “When we did the first one, we were surprised by the turnout — we were basically at capacity.”
Today, the conference draws hundreds who take part in discussions led by health experts and professionals who work with at-risk individuals. This year’s talks focus on the theme “Communities Fight Stigma Together: Having Courageous Conversations about Preventing Suicide.”
The program begins with an 8 a.m. registration and continental breakfast. At 9 a.m., Dr. Alex Crosby, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will discuss using data to reduce suicides. Author and teen motivational speaker Jeff Yalden follows with his discussion, “Why teens die of suicide,” from 10 to 10:50 a.m.
Robert Stohr, from the Loss and Healing Council for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will speak on suicide and loss in the LGBTQ community from 11 to 11:50 a.m.
Following a free lunch, an afternoon panel discussion from 1:15 to 3 p.m. will discuss California’s End of Life Option Act, a 2016 law that allows certain terminally ill adult patients to be prescribed an aid-in-dying medication if certain conditions are met. Intended mainly for medical professionals, the panel will be led by USC Verdugo Hills Hospital’s Dr. Talin Dadoyan, who specializes in psychiatry and neurology.
Hobbs said the event should be informative and uplifting.
“It’s a packed house — the energy is high and people are very concerned about the topics and how they can use [this information] in their lives,” he said.