I recently attended the Western States Conference on Suicide. No conference could be more timely or necessary as western states including Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Wyoming have the highest suicide rates in the nation.
Knowledge about suicide is greatly lacking which also hinders its prevention. Here are some quick facts:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S and second leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24
- There are over 40,000 deaths annually from suicide, higher than the number of deaths from traffic accidents. And deaths through suicide are greatly underreported
- 45% of those completing suicide have visited a primary health care provider within the past year
- Over 1,000 people complete suicide within 72 hours of discharge from the emergency room of the hospital
- It is impossible to predict which individuals will attempt suicide but it is possible to determine the risk by group (age, mental health) and reduce symptoms & suffering
Amazingly, health care providers frequently do not receive any training on suicide even though training is essential for screening and prevention. Trained health care professionals can identify risk of suicide and then work with patients to develop a safety plan, counsel removal of lethal means, and make sure that patients are connected to ongoing assistance (personal hand-off rather than paper referral).
Many people who complete suicide have a diagnosis of depression and take medication to treat it. The problem is that some of the medications that treat depression activate a gene that causes suicide ideation. The good news is that researchers are identifying drugs, such as lithium and ketamine, that can shut off the desire to commit suicide.
Here are some resources that can help to prevent suicide:
Training: No one should embark on suicide prevention without first receiving training. A good place to start is the QPR model which stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. A variety of online training for individuals, organizations, and professionals is available at low cost. For more information visit http://www.qprinstitute.com/.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: SPRC is the only federally-funded suicide center, sponsored by SAMHSA. The site contains information on programs, funding for states, and a curricula developed especially for Native Alaskans and American Indians youth and young adults. For more information, visit www.sprc.org. To view the manual To Live to See the Great Day that Dawns, visit http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/migrate/library/Suicide_Prevention_Guide.pdf.
Hope Squad: Utah has a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program for youth that was developed through the joint efforts of a state legislator and high school principal. There have been no youth deaths from suicide in the Provo School District since the curriculum was implemented. For more information visit http://hopesquad.com/.
Posted by Priscilla Martens
NFPN Executive Director