Suicide Awareness


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2015   4:00 PM   

Rock County Fairgrounds, Janesville

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Surgeon General Regina Benjamin speaks during a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention event Monday in Washington, D.C. Many of the 36,000 annual deaths from suicide in the United States could be prevented by making suicide prevention a part of routine health care and getting people to talk frankly about suicide in homes, schools, workplaces, the military and even on Facebook, says an updated national strategy from the surgeon general and a coalition of public and private groups.

  • By Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin speaks during a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention event Monday in Washington, D.C.
“Preventing suicide is everyone’s business,” Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said at a news conference Monday introducing the plan. It updates one introduced in 2001.

Since then, the nation has made progress in understanding suicide and launched some efforts, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and a special crisis line for veterans (both available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255), Benjamin says. But deaths have actually risen after falling in the 1990s, says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We see especially alarming trends in our armed forces,” she says, noting that in July, the Army lost 38 soldiers to suicide, an all-time one-month high. “These deaths are especially heartbreaking because we know they are preventable.” The goal of the new plan: saving 20,000 lives in the next five years. The plan comes with some money: $55 million in federal grants to state, tribal and community prevention efforts.

Facts about suicide in U.S.

 • More than 36,000 people kill themselves each year. • More than 374,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for self-inflicted injuries each year. • Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death and twice as common as homicide. • Men die by suicide four times as often as women and represent 78.8% of suicides. • Women attempt suicide two to three times as often as men. • Suicide rates for men are highest among those ages 75 and older. • Suicide rates for women are highest among those ages 45-54. • Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among men. • Poisoning is the most common method of suicide for women. Source: Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Officials pointed to other recent actions by the federal government that might help: Medicare has started covering screening for depression, and under new incentives announced in August, physicians will be rewarded by Medicare and Medicaid for screening depressed patients for suicide risk. Meanwhile, President Obama just signed an executive order hiring 1,600 new mental-health workers in the Department of Veterans Affairs and increasing the workforce of the veterans’ crisis line from 200 to 300. But the plan calls on businesses, community groups, friends and families to do much of the work of suicide prevention — especially learning the signs that someone might be in trouble and learning what to do. Among the possible signs, according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: • Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself. • Looking for ways to do it, such as buying a gun. • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live. “Don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself or harming yourself?’ ” Benjamin says. “If you see these warning signs, don’t leave the person alone, remove any objects that can be used and call the national prevention line. … And if all of those fail, take them to the emergency room.” If the new plan is fully implemented, it could reduce the suicide rate, says Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology. “It’s too early to predict if this plan will be more effective than its initial version,” he said in an e-mail. “But this plan brings many more players to the task.” One of those players is Facebook, which started a program in December that lets users report suicidal posts and connects distressed users with online counselors. Cheryl Sharp, 54, of Annapolis, Md., says she wishes that had been available when she was a teen: She attempted suicide nine times between ages 13 and 24 while suffering a “very dark depression.” Eventually, she found a good therapist and other support, but, she says, for years “I wanted to talk to someone, I wanted to have an outlet, but it was such a taboo topic.” If Facebook had existed, “when I was 13, that is where I would have been,” says Sharp, a social worker at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare in Washington. “Having Facebook and other social media involved does create a new opportunity,” though the impact has not yet been studied, says Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. High-profile anti-suicide efforts by the military also could have a “profound” effect throughout society, he says. “When they are saying that this is OK to talk about, it’s a powerful statement.” Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental illness, he says, and many are afraid to seek help. “Sometimes people fear they will lose their jobs or be viewed differently if they acknowledge these problems.”

Facebook Provides First-of-a-Kind Service to Help Prevent Suicides

SAMHSA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are collaborating with Facebook to help those in crisis.

In partnership with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Facebook is announcing a new service that harnesses the power of social networking and crisis support to help prevent suicides across the Nation and Canada.  The new service enables Facebook users to report a suicidal comment they see posted by a friend to Facebook using either the Report Suicidal Content link or the report links found throughout the site. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an email from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker. Learn More  |  Read the SAMHSA Blog About the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention (Action Alliance) is the public-private partnership advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.  The Action Alliance envisions a Nation free from the tragic experience of suicide.  Learn

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