COPE Coalition creates coaster campaign for suicide preventionSubmitted: 03/14/2019
Story By Dakota Sherek

COPE Coalition creates coaster campaign for suicide prevention
RHINELANDER - Suicide ranks among the top ten causes of death in America according to the CDC. In parts of the Northwoods, the suicide rate is well above the national average. Vilas County's suicide rate nearly double the national average, and Oneida County is not too far behind.

A group with representatives from three area counties decided to ask bar owners and bartenders to spread awareness, and possibly help save a life.

"We are hoping to reach a population that needs help," said Ascension Koller Behavioral Health clinical social worker and mental health specialist Heidi Pritzl.

Pritzl says that for men aged 45 to 54, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death. So, the Northwoods Tri-County COPE (Community, Outreach, Prevention and Education) coalition considered ways to change that statistic.

"Different approaches to reaching out and breaking stigma, and getting the education out there," said Pritzl.

One of the solutions they came up with is the coaster campaign. The idea behind the project is that when people walk into participating bars they'll see special coasters. The coasters include important information like national and tri-county crisis line phone numbers and even a website, headsupguys.org, which can help people battling depression or anxiety.

"I think it's great," said Oneida County Assistant Veterans Service Officer Jason Dailey, who is also a partner with COPE. "It's a good conversation starter, it's a resource." 

A resource that bars and restaurants across the Northwoods, like Bucketheads Sports Bar and Grill in Rhinelander, can easily use.

"We're happy to put them out, and we're always happy to help any local cause of campaign," said Bucketheads manager Lyndon Lampe. "If it helps one person then it's worth us trying it out."

Dailey hopes the campaign will help veterans and others who struggle with mental health.

"To get the word out there that this is an issue in our communities, that there are resources out there to help, that there's options other than suicide," said Dailey. 

The campaign is still very new. But Pritzl hopes the coasters will, at the very least, start a conversation in the community.

"Any way we can bring education to our community would be great," said Pritzl. 

Pritzl says tavern league leaders in Vilas, Oneida, and Forest Counties were contacted and all businesses within those leagues will have the coasters.

To contact the Tri-county crisis line call 888-299-1188 or for the national line call 1-800-273-TALK.

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