Johnson City Medical Center | News Article

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

JCMC’s Heatherly Sifford wins regional suicide prevention award

Heatherly Sifford was honored at a Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network event in Nashville: (left to right) Scott Couch, reporter from WZTV-Fox in Nashville, emcee for this event; Scott Ridgway, MS, executive director, TSPN; Anne Young, TSPN advisory council regional chair; Heatherly Sifford; The Hon. Jim Henry, Deputy Governor of the State of Tennessee; Marie Williams, LCSW, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services; Jameson K. Norton, CEO of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics.


NASHVILLE Heatherly Sifford, trauma injury prevention program coordinator for Johnson City Medical Center, recently received this year’s Northeast Regional Suicide Prevention Award by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN).


Sifford received this year’s award in recognition of her efforts to promote the cause of suicide prevention, not only as part of her professional duties but also as a volunteer for TSPN. She is one of TSPN’s leading suicide prevention trainers in this part of the state and has connected countless people to community resources. She is also an appointed member of TSPN’s statewide Advisory Council.


She received the award at TSPN’s annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Day ceremony, held in Nashville.


These awards are part of the Ken and Madge Tullis, MD, Suicide Prevention Awards given out by TSPN each year to honor those who have made special contributions to suicide prevention in our state. They were established by and named for the Memphis-area psychiatrist and his wife who co-founded TSPN in 2001.


Approximately 300 people attended the ceremony where Sifford and other regional award winners were recognized. The event was the annual highlight of TSPN’s statewide Suicide Prevention Awareness Month campaign. This year’s event featured the presentation of a Suicide Prevention Awareness Month proclamation from Gov. Bill Haslam, presented by Deputy Governor Jim Henry, as well as remarks from Marie Williams, LCSW, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and Jameson K. Norton, CEO of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics. Vanderbilt Behavioral Health sponsored this year's event and the luncheon that followed.


“Ms. Sifford’s suicide prevention efforts in northeastern Tennessee over the years have no doubt saved lives,” said Scott Ridgway, MS, TSPN’s Executive Director. “She is one of our foremost suicide prevention advocates not just locally, but across the state of Tennessee.”

In Tennessee, an estimated 950 men, women and children die by suicide each year – more people than are lost to homicide, AIDS or motor vehicle accidents. Suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths in our state, nationally and worldwide, far above homicide and death due to natural disasters. In almost all cases, suicide can be traced to unrecognized, untreated or poorly treated mental illness.  It can happen to people of either sex, any race or ethnicity and any economic status.


TSPN is the statewide public-private organization responsible for implementing the Tennessee Strategy for Suicide Prevention. It works across the state to eliminate the stigma of suicide and educate communities about the warning signs of suicide, with the ultimate intention of reducing suicide rates in the state of Tennessee. Mostly this involves organizing and promoting regular suicide prevention and awareness activities, providing suicide prevention and crisis intervention training to community organizations, and conducting “postvention” sessions for schools and organizations after suicides occur.