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UHPA Faculty Serves Hawai’i’s Communities Through Suicide Prevention

Submitted Nomination of UHPA Faculty Demonstrating our Principles in Action:


Nominee nameDeborah A. Goebert and Jeanelle J. Sugimoto-Matsuda
Nominee Campus, DeptManoa, Dept of Psychiatry & Office of Public Health Studies
Which of the principles does your submission best demonstrate?Serving the Community
Why is this faculty member worthy of your nomination?Dr. Deborah Goebert and Dr. Jeanelle Sugimoto-Matsuda have provided critically important community service in the areas of suicide prevention and mental health. Dr. Goebert is a Professor, Associate Director of Research, and Director of Resident Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the John A. Burn School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Dr. Sugimoto-Matsuda is an Associate Professor in the Office of Public Health Studies, Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. For over the past 15 years, both Drs. Goebert and Sugimoto-Matsuda have provided outstanding community service to address injury prevention, including suicide prevention, and to improve the mental health of the people of Hawai‘i. At different times, both have served as Chair/Co-Chair of the Prevent Suicide Hawai‘i Task Force. Dr. Goebert is also an inaugural member of the Task Force. Over the last 15 years, they have seen the Task Force grow exponentially, with expansion to now include County Task Forces to promote local activities. They have helped support efforts by providing expertise in planning, policy development, and programs. Most notably, they played instrumental roles in facilitating input from community adults and youth for the State’s strategic plan, as well as writing the formal document that was reported to the Hawai‛i State Legislature. They have provided suicide-prevention education and training to a vast and diverse array of audiences, including public and private K-12 school youth and educators, healthcare providers, public safety and judiciary agencies, military partners, community/non-profit organizations, and general family/community groups. In response to recent legislation, Dr. Sugimoto-Matsuda worked with leaders in the Hawai‘i State Department of Education (DoE) to develop a suicide prevention basics course to meet DoE’s needs. Dr. Goebert has helped to introduce upstream prevention programs to Hawaii’s youth. They have supported policies and legislation aimed at preventing suicides across the lifespan and raising awareness about this important issue. For example, they have helped promote suicide-prevention-awareness month in September; ensure suicide prevention policy and training in our public K-12 schools; facilitated statewide engagement by youth to inform the legislature; and shared local efforts with local and national policymakers. With the advent of SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 and the adverse impact that this has had on the mental health of people in Hawai‘i, they have increased their efforts at getting the word out that there is hope and services. This included the development of a new brochure aimed at promoting resources during the pandemic and a guide for college/university instructors to have conversations with their students about mental health and ways to take care of themselves. They were also engaged in community outreach though webinars on self-care, resilience, and social-media messaging on mental health. Their current project, called the “Hawaii’s Caring Systems Initiative to Prevent Youth Suicide,” was recently awarded $3.6 million by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), United States Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). The purpose of this effort is to strengthen the capacity of key youth-serving systems in the areas of suicide prevention (hope), early intervention (help), and postvention (healing), as well as strengthen the communication and collaboration among these systems to improve overall continuity of care. Collectively, Drs. Goebert and Sugimoto-Matsuda continue to serve the communities of Hawai‘i to prevent suicides and to improve the mental health of the people of Hawai‘i.

Please note that this published nomination has been minimally edited, if at all, and strictly reflects the views of the submitting author and not UHPA.

Do you know of other faculty that demonstrate our principles in action that are worthy of nomination?

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