Tracy Smith ties a ribbon on the "tree of recovery" fxor her son during the Voices of Recovery panel discussion held at the Dianne G. Van Hook University Center in Valencia on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

COC informs community during Suicide Prevention Month

College of the Canyons kicked off Suicide Prevention Month on Wednesday with two discussion panels touching on the topics of sexual trauma and substance abuse.

The panels were held in an attempt to inform the community and campus about the resources that are available at COC and the surrounding area, school leaders said.

Prior to Wednesday evening’s dinner and panel discussion, which featured experts from the Child and Family Center, the Sheriff’s Department J-Team and representatives from Real Life Church, Jessica Romo and Jaclyn Roher from Strength United stopped by Bonelli Hall to help an audience of staff and students understand the impact of sexual trauma, its challenges and the process of recovery.

Claira Brown, 16, left, tells her story of addiction during the Voices of Recovery panel discussion held at the Dianne G. Van Hook University Center in Valencia on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Everybody’s response is going to look different,” Roher said Wednesday, “so while we can’t control what that will look like, you can control how you react when somebody wants to disclose something to you. And that’s to take a deep breath, be calm and be as open-minded as you can as possible.”

Roher is a sexual assault counselor at Strength United’s Santa Clarita location, so she said she was on hand to share the myriad different responses that somebody who’s experienced sexual asault or trauma of any kind could face in their lifetime.

“We felt it was important to be here as a resource because it’s really a tough subject to talk about, so we wanted to inform as many people as possible and let them know that we’re a resource here in Santa Clarita,” she said.

Master of Ceremonies Bob Sharits, right, introduces the panelists during the Voices of Recovery panel discussion held at the Dianne G. Van Hook University Center in Valencia on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“A lot of times, people don’t know where to go, or something has occurred and they don’t know who they can talk to or who to trust,” Romo said, mentioning sometimes victims will seek out the assistance of a peer or professor they trust. “So we wanted to let this specific audience (of students and staff) know that, if someone does come and disclose something to you, here’s what you can do and here are some good tips and resources that could help you respond.”

Romo said those who were unable to attend Wednesday’s discussion can find information on the resources available to them at places like the college’s Title IX office and its Student Health and Wellness Center.

“We also have a local 661 hotline number available,” Romo said. The number is 661-253-0258 and is available to provide 24-hour support.

The college’s observance of Suicide Prevention Month is scheduled to continue next week with three more events.

Mindy Bowman tells her story of addiction during the Voices of Recovery panel discussion held at the Dianne G. Van Hook University Center in Valencia on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Upcoming events include:

• No Texting and Driving: This interactive health event aims to educate students about the dangers of texting and driving by having students try to drive remote control cars on a course while texting on their phones. The educational event is scheduled 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the college’s Valencia campus.

• Human trafficking — It happens right here: Human trafficking survivor, author and consultant Kateriina Rosenblatt will serve as the keynote speaker during this year’s seminar, which will also feature panels of experts and local providers who seek to help the community better understand human trafficking and how one can make a difference. A light breakfast will be served and resource tables will be available from 8 to 8:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27. Residents are invited to register online at bit.ly/2kfU7CW or by calling 661-255-7963.

• Mental Health First Aid: Participants should expect to learn how to identify the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems and how to respond appropriately. This free noncredit class can result in multiple certificates. It will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, in Room 102 of the Valencia campus’ East Physical Education building.

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