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Spectrum Health Planning Media, Events Participation/Sponsorship To Observe September Suicide Awareness Prevention Month

Spectrum Health

Q&A with Christine Marie Ziemba, MS LMHC, Director of Special Projects

The month of September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month, and Sun., Sept. 10 is National Suicide Prevention Day

To observe the month and continue to raise awareness about suicide prevention, Spectrum Health is planning media communications, and sponsorship/participation in several important events taking place across Buffalo and Western New York. (Please see schedule and event participation opportunities below.)

Members of the Spectrum team also sit on the WNY Suicide Prevention Coalition which takes a County-wide view of the issue.

They include:

  •  Bob Cannata, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Community Crisis Services, who serves as Vice Chair
  • Christine Marie Ziemba, MS LMHC, Director of Special Projects and Evaluator, SAMHSA Crisis Center Grant and Kate Buckley, Director of Quality Improvement, who attend the WNY Suicide Prevention Coalition Meetings. 
  • Christine also sits on the School Sub Committee; and is also the Chair of the Suicide Prevention Committee for Spectrum Health.

We talked to Christine about Spectrum Health’s plans for September Suicide Awareness Month

Q. Why is it important to observe an entire month of activities for “Suicide Awareness”?

Christine: On the average, there are 132 suicides per day.  In 2021, men died almost four times more than women by suicide.  There is also an upward trend of youth dying by suicide that is being monitored closely, so this a topic of critical importance. “Zero Suicides” is a goal that we as a community are working toward.

Q. What is the significance of the Sept. 5 “Flag of Hope” ceremony at the Erie County Rath Building?

Christine: The significance of raising the flag is to recognize National Suicide Prevention week which runs from September 10 through September 16, 2023 for the community (led by the County Executive’s office) to promote mental health and suicide awareness.  The flag is raised to remind us that there is always HOPE, and people throughout the community who truly care and work towards “zero suicides”. 

Q. On Fri., Sept. 22, Spectrum Health staff members are invited to wear Yellow for Suicide Prevention. What’s the significance of the color Yellow?

Christine: The story goes that yellow became a symbol for suicide prevention when a teen died by suicide in 1994. “Words said by his family – “please don’t do this, please talk to someone” were put on bright yellow paper along with phone numbers / who to call to get help. Teens pinned yellow ribbons on 500 slips of those yellow papers for his services and at the end, all were gone.  Teens began to mail them ‘everywhere’ to friends and loved ones.  Within three weeks came word of a girl who got help when she gave her yellow message* she had received in the mail to her teacher and received help. The Ripple Effect had begun  a bright yellow bridge that connects those in need to those who help” ( 

There are other stories about this event (i.e.; teens having a yellow 1968 Ford mustang, teens putting yellow ribbons in their hair, etc.) told in Chicken Soup for the Soul Third Serving  (1997) and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul (2000)

Q. Spectrum Health is a Corporate Sponsor of the Sept. 23 “Walk Out of Darkness” and you are Walk Team Captain. Why would you encourage staff members to participate?

Christine: The Walk Out of Darkness is more that honoring and supporting families who have been affected by suicide.  It is also about Hope.  When I went to my first walk, I came home a different person.  People who came, just did not come to remember loved ones, they also came to celebrate life.  They embraced hope for zero suicides.  They came to break down barriers and take away the stigmas that surround suicide.  It is also a fundraiser for AFSP, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Buffalo is one of many walks held across the country to bring people together who want to prevent suicide, support those who have been affected by suicide and raise money to continue research, support trainings and community programs.

Q. Finally, I’ve heard and read that “words matter” when talking about suicide. Can you say more about why?

Christine: There is a lot to be said about words.  Once written or said, it is hard to take them back.  The same holds true for speaking on the topic of Suicide.  The table below nicely represents working toward taking the stigma away from talking about suicide.  It is ok to ask for help.


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From CAMH.CA/-/media/files/words-matter-suicide-language-guide.pdf

Spectrum Health Activities: September Suicide Awareness Prevention Month

WGRZ will broadcast a 15 second message sponsored by Spectrum Health throughout the month of September

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Spectrum Health Journey Podcast

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Spectrum Health Program Manager Malene K. White and local business leader Bob Stachura are the cohosts of Spectrum Health Journey, a warm and comfortable conversation about mental wellness.

September’s guest is Kelly Woffard, Director of Health Equity for Erie County. Everyone’s life journey is unique. For people living with a behavioral health diagnosis, the journey includes misunderstanding and challenges before the path points to wellness.  Kelly Woffard shares her journey, her recovery, and how her past informed her career and avocational choices.

EP5 | The Journey of Recovery

Spectrum Health Journey can also be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Radio Public, and ANCHOR.FM/POWUFO.

Tues., Sept. 5

10:30 AM

“Flag of Hope” Ceremony

Erie County Rath Building

95 Franklin Street, Buffalo,

Spectrum Health staff members will attend to represent the agency.

Fri., Sept. 22

Spectrum Health staff members are invited to wear Yellow for Suicide Prevention

Sat., Sept. 23

9 AM – 1 PM

Walk Out of Darkness

Central Wharf at Canalside, 44 Prime St, Buffalo 14202

Spectrum Health is a Corporate Sponsor.

Team members from the Buffalo H.O.P.E., MAT and C.A.R.E.S. teams will be tabling.

Spectrum Health staff members will join the walk to represent the agency.