Departments join forces for Prevent Suicide Conference in Wittenberg

By Ken Luchterhand

Division Director of Youth Services Lanette Walker places an emphasis on the word “prevention” when she talks about the upcoming “Prevent Suicide Conference” slated for September 21-23, at the Siga Funmaker Community Center in Wittenberg.
“We want to be proactive, rather than reactive,” Walker said. “We want to be ahead of it.”
The upcoming conference is geared toward the youth, but it also includes adults and community members.  “Because it’s part of the community. You can’t make one plan and expect it to fit all. Every situation is unique.”
For the Prevent Suicide Conference on Sept. 21-23, speakers will be Nikki Lowe, a former MMA fighter; Dr. Iris Prettypaint who will speak on preparedness; and Dr. Don Bartlette, who will speak on community readiness. Waylon Pahona is slated to be the guest master-of-ceremonies.
September is Suicide Prevention Month.
The conference will be a collaboration of many departments and divisions within the Ho-Chunk Nation. Helping conduct the event will be Youth Services, Pac Haci Youth Council, Behavioral Health, Community Supportive Services, and the Pac Haci community members.
At previous conferences, the youth identified five factors that play into the reasons behind thoughts of suicide. They are:
1. Bullying
2. An identity crisis
3. Domestic violence
4. Alcohol and drugs
5. A general lack of leadership in their lives to lead them and give them direction.
Based off those five identifiers, they put the conference together.
It all started in 2011, when a directive was given to create a community action plan on suicide prevention.
In 2012, youth gathered to say how they might address the subject and how they organize a yearly meeting of sort, not always a conference, to raise awareness and provide more education to those people who might be affected.
During the first year of the effort, several Ho-Chunk youth ran in the Fox Cities Marathon Relay. They were there to run with Dirk Whitebreast and to support his cause.
Whitebreast ran 10 marathons in 30 days in honor of his sister who completed suicide at the age of 18. The effort was to promote his own healing and to raise awareness of suicide.
“Our paths crossed when we were supposed to,” Walker said.
At the upcoming conference, part of the philosophy they will be using is QPR, which is an acronym for Question, Persuade, and Respond.
Another philosophy is called “ASIST” which will be provided to attendees by Ho-Chunk Behavioral Health therapists.
Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is an intensive, interactive, and practice-dominated course designed to help caregivers recognize and review risk, and intervene to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. It is by far the most widely used, acclaimed and researched suicide intervention training workshop in the world.
Community Supportive Services also will play a role, as well. Members of that group will provide sessions on coping skills, such as using art therapy to express themselves.
First time for the conference is the “Honoring Veterans and PTSD” in a small ceremony this year, Walker said.
“We’re taking direction from the youth,” Walker said. “They identified what needs to be addressed.”
Friday night is the cultural activities and Saturday is the information day, with speakers and a corn roast at night with an outdoor movie and a bonfire. Sunday is an awareness walk/run. The walk will be through the community.
“There’s something for everyone,” Walker said. “We’re trying to keep everything free so more people will participate and cost won’t be a barrier to participation.”
The Pac Haci Youth Council has put a lot of effort into the conference, conducting fundraisers to help pay for the costs.
“Prevention is important,” Walker said.
Lodging is available for attendees at the Ho-Chunk Gaming – Wittenberg Hotel and the Best Western, along with camping sites.
Registration forms need to be filled out, which can be obtained by contacting any Ho-Chunk Youth Services Center, or by contacting Walker at (715) 701-0079 or (715) 253-3369 or email at