Suspenders4Hope training helps Ascension Via Christi respiratory therapist save a life

Melanie Northcutt, a registered respiratory therapist who has served at Ascension Via Christi for the past 33 years, recently completed the Suspenders4Hope Suicide Awareness and Prevention training program.

The online program, developed by Wichita State University, is available communitywide at no cost through a Kohl's Cares grant to Ascension Via Christi and Northcutt's supervisor, Allan Thomas, had recommended it as a worthwhile investment of her time.

"So I signed up," she says, only to find herself on the phone a few weeks later talking with a family friend who was expressing some concerning behaviors and thoughts.

She went to the woman's home and used her training to ask her some direct questions about her intentions and learned that she was actively carrying out her suicide plan. Northcutt called 9-1-1 and the woman was transported to the hospital for medical intervention and an inpatient evaluation and is now in outpatient therapy to address her depression.

"Had Melanie not directly intervened, the outcome of this situation obviously could have resulted in death," says Thomas. He is thankful that Northcutt listened to her heart and followed up with the family, but not surprised as she is known for going the extra mile in service to others.

For example, Northcutt helped launch the suctioning clinic at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, which offers round-the-clock wintertime care for children ages 4 weeks to 24 months who have been diagnosed with bronchiolitis. She also was instrumental in helping to refine and implement the Honor Walk initiative brought forward by Thomas. That program, established in 2019, allows organ donors' loved ones to honor them as they proceed to the operating room.

As for the Suspenders4Hope program, Northcutt says she never imagined that she would personally need the training, but thought it might help her to help educate others who might.

"Because of the program, I felt very confident in being able to ask her direct questions and in calling 9-1-1 based on her responses," says Northcutt, adding that she would encourage everyone to take advantage of the Kohl's Cares-funded opportunity to learn what to look for and how to respond.

After all, the training, in which 425 Ascension Via Christi associates have completed so far, has already helped save at least one life.