New signage gives hope to those in crisis

Jen Sparrock and Tammy Winterboer, PharmD

Jen Sparrock and Tammy Winterboer, PharmD

“There is help. There is hope.”

Guests and colleagues now will see this powerful message displayed on 149 new signs that are being installed throughout parking structures on the Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC campus next week. They will be placed inside stairwells on each level and staggered across the top level of each garage.

The signs direct people to call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which quickly connects the caller to a trained counselor who can address their immediate needs and help them with ongoing care. Most 988 calls get resolved over the phone, but if someone needs additional support, the counselor can direct them to Nebraska Medicine Psychiatry Emergency Services or another nearby service. 

“When someone is in crisis and feels isolated, these signs can help them pause for a moment, know that they’re not alone and realize that help is available,” said Jen Sparrock, Nebraska Medicine’s Psychiatric Emergency Services manager. “Signage like this seems simple, but it can make a big impact in suicide prevention.” 

Over the years, there have been multiple suicide deaths and attempts in Omaha parking structures, including those on the med center campus. Shortly after an incident occurred earlier this year, several departments developed ideas to help prevent future events and give people hope. Their research revealed similar suicide prevention signs in other locations were successful at reducing the number of suicides in those areas and had a significant impact on the people who saw them, even if they weren’t in crisis at the time.

“When the most recent call came in about an event in our parking structure, my heart sank,” said Tammy Winterboer, PharmD, vice president of quality, effectiveness and experience with Nebraska Medicine. “I knew we had to do something. If these signs can support even one person to make a call or send a text and get the help they need, it is well worth it. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that make the biggest difference.” 

In addition to preventing suicides, these signs were developed to help remove the stigma around mental health challenges and accessing support services. 

“Most people know someone or have had a personal experience with suicide or depression,” said Cherie Lytle, Nebraska Medicine’s consumer experience manager. “We want to make sure this topic isn’t taboo or something that is not acknowledged. We want our colleagues, friends and loved ones to know there is help if they need it.”  

These signs were developed jointly among Patient Experience, Psychiatric Emergency Services, Facilities, Marketing and Communications, Public Safety and the executive leadership team. Funding for the signs was provided by the Christopher Bremer Memorial Foundation and PIP Printing. 

Sparrock reminds colleagues that signs are just one way to help. 

“If we look at suicide prevention like we do other public health issues where we all have a role to play, we are a better community for it,” she said. “Remember to check in on the people in your life often, ask if they’re OK and really listen. Being a person that people can trust and be vulnerable with is important.” 

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  1. Marlene Novotny says:

    Thank you! I saw the sign in my parking garage this morning. Many of us have experienced suicide or depression in our families and we appreciate the efforts.

  2. Tacy Slater says:

    Thank you to all involved in making this happen. I hope information about this signage will be communicated to the greater Omaha community and surrounding communities so that leaders, businesses, etc. may consider similar signage. Your efforts will have a positive impact!

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