Clinical Nurse Specialist Reaches Out to Youth in Virtual World--National Suicide Awareness Week is May 4-11

April 30, 2009

 WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – In a passionate effort to reach young people who might be contemplating suicide, a clinical nurse specialist for psychiatric and behavioral health sciences at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center has created an avatar on a national suicide prevention Web site.

Kim Hutchinson, Ed.D, is a psychiatric and mental health clinical nurse specialist, who created the avatar on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Web site “in an effort to engage a broader audience of young people who are technically savvy,” she said.

 Avatars are computer users’ representations of them selves – alter egos – that can be three dimensional like those used in computer games, or a two-dimensional icon, such as a picture, used on Internet forums and other communities.
 “The whole intent is to try to reach the younger generation with the medium they like,” Hutchinson said.

 Her avatar has shoulder-length brown hair and sports oval-shaped glasses and brown eyes. She introduces herself as “a nurse who loves people and works in a hospital looking after people like yourself who are feeling very sad or sometimes confused, hurt or angry about all sorts of things happening in their life, family or even things happening in their community.” To view her avatar, click here.

 Her creation of the avatar came out of her work as a licensed clinical addictions nurse and the alcohol, tobacco and other drugs group meeting she offers for hospitalized adolescents who are admitted to the Pediatric Behavioral Health unit at Brenner Children’s Hospital. “My approach is that I give them the sense that their feelings are normal and can become very strong – they can be depressed or elated. Either way creates behavior that may cause them to act out impulsively and cause harm to themselves.”

 Hutchinson’s day-to-day role involves conducting research and quality improvement activities, as well as development of policies, protocols, evidence-based practices and new guidelines for patient care (children, adolescents and adults). She works with interdisciplinary staff to increase their knowledge and understanding of policies and the politics of mental health.
Hutchinson also coordinates the annual mental health awareness day event that is hosted by Wake Forest Baptist’s Nursing Behavioral Health Leadership Team. Planned for May 6, 2009, the event is in its fifth year. Its purpose is to educate health professionals and the general public about different aspects of mental health/illnesses, treatments and services available, and to reduce fears that result from a lack of understanding about mental illnesses. Most importantly, the annual event is offered to help eliminate the discriminating stigma and fear that prevents people with mental illnesses or mental stressors from asking for compassionate care.

For more information, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s national Web site here.

Media Relations

Bonnie Davis:, 336-713-1597