Category suicide prevention

SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Efforts

Protecting the behavioral health and safety of Americans is central to everything we do here at SAMHSA. Preventing the tragic loss of life from suicide is a unique challenge. We have learned that it takes a coordinated effort at all levels, from government to organizations to local communities – down to the individual level.  Just being a caring friend or neighbor can go a long way in preventing others from thoughts of suicide.

This week, September 10-16, is National Suicide Prevention Week. During this week, we are highlighting the many ways that SAMHSA supports the national efforts to prevent suicide every day, using a variety of tools, resources, and partnerships.

  • Collaboration – SAMHSA works with partners in the public and private sectors to support a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention. We work with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and chair the Federal Working Group on Suicide to shape national policy and strategies. For National Suicide Prevention Week, we are collaborating with many partners to promote suicide prevention awareness through social media events and messages, using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
  • Care – While word of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline continues to spread, most people are not aware that this life-saving resource is funded and managed by SAMHSA. This year, more than 1.5 million people have called the Lifeline, which is a 24-hour, toll-free confidential hotline. The Lifeline connects callers to one of over 160 crisis centers across the country. Callers who utilized the Lifeline while in crisis have shared that they felt less suicidal and more safe after talking to a Lifeline counselor.
  • Community – In addition to our nationwide efforts, SAMHSA grants help states, communities, and health care systems prevent suicide among youth and adults based on the latest scientific evidence. This week, SAMHSA distributed $14.5 million in new grants for suicide prevention, under the Zero Suicide program and the Cooperative Agreements to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. SAMHSA’s grant programs work. Evaluation of SAMHSA’s Garret Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grants showed that counties implementing grant-funded activities had fewer youth suicide deaths and attempts than other counties.
  • Resources – SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center and its Tribal Technical Assistance Center provide technical assistance to states, tribes, colleges and other organizations. We also work with tribes and tribal organizations through our Native Connections and Campus grants. SAMHSA develops products and resources such as the High School Suicide Prevention Toolkit, the Lifeline’s Warning Signs cards and the SuicideSafe® mobile app, which provides assistance to providers in assessing suicide risk and in locating resources.

One thing is clear: collectively, these efforts to collaborate, provide care, support communities and provide resources save lives every single day.  And yet there is still more work to do. Together with local, state, federal and tribal partners, SAMHSA works every day to achieve the goal of zero suicide nationwide.

Help is just a phone call away.  If you are thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Every American Has a Part to Play in Suicide Prevention

It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.

What could we possibly do to stop someone from taking his or her life? What are we failing to do for our neighbors and family members struggling with substance abuse or serious mental illness? What can we do to address the fact that this problem is especially acute among those whom we owe the most, our veterans? How can we fail to see when a loved one or neighbor is struggling?

The tragedy of suicide demands a proactive and coordinated response, from both the public sector and local communities and civil society. Particularly during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September and National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week (September 11 through 17), we need to remind ourselves that working together with compassion and commitment, we can make a difference and reduce the numbers of our veterans, youth, older adults, and others dying by suicide.

The statistics on this problem are disturbing:

  • Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.
  • In 2015, nearly 44,200 deaths were due to suicide, meaning our country suffers about one suicide every 12 minutes.
  • One in 20 Americans with schizophrenia—one of the serious mental illnesses we have made a priority at HHS—die by suicide.
  • Americans with mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder die by suicide at a rate 25 times the general population.
  • Each day, according to the VA, 20 veterans die of suicide.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 605,000 U.S. residents died by suicide from 1999 to 2015.

This week, HHS is distributing $14.5 million in new grants for suicide prevention, under the Zero Suicide program and Cooperative Agreements to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. These grants will help states, tribes, and health systems run suicide prevention programs for Americans 25 years of age and older.

Each of us have an individual role to play in this fight. There is evidence that bolstering our personal and community interconnectedness can make a significant difference. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy,  increasing the connections among individuals, family, community and social institutions can be a major protective factor for preventing suicide.

ResearchExternal Web Site Policy  shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks about them in a caring way. Studies also indicate that helping a person at risk connect to a support system can reduce feelings of hopelessness and give them the people and resources to reach out to for help, whether it’s a hotline, family, friends, clergy, therapists, or others.

With our public and private partners in the National Action Alliance for Suicide PreventionExternal Web Site Policy, known as the Action Alliance, we are pursuing a public health approach that considers long-term prevention strategies, as well as crisis responses, while targeting specific vulnerable populations that are at higher risk. HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) funds the Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy  and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Here are some of the available resources for suicide prevention produced through those partnerships and others:

  • The Suicide Prevention Resource CenterExternal Web Site Policy  provides staffing and other support to the Action Alliance and for Zero SuicideExternal Web Site Policy, an initiative based on the belief that suicide deaths for individuals receiving the right care are preventable.
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or you think is at risk of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a 24-hour toll-free confidential hotline. This hotline has helped more than 6 million since its inception in 2005, routing calls within its network of more than 160 crisis centers. The Lifeline’s websiteExternal Web Site Policy has important information about how to help people in crisis.
  • Thanks to collaboration between SAMHSA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, military service members, veterans, and their families can call the Lifeline number, press “1” at the prompt and be connected to VA counselors.
  • If you’re involved in suicide prevention programming in your community, check out CDC’s Preventing Suicide: a Technical Package of Policies, Programs, and Practices – PDF.

Being a caring friend, family member, and neighbor can go a long way in preventing our fellow Americans from getting to the point of suicidal thoughts.

Back in May when we honored a couple prominent Olympic athletes for their work in raising awareness about mental health issues, I said: Never be afraid to ask, “Are you alright?  Is everything OK?  How are you doing?”

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to save a life.

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Back to School with Behavioral Health Supports

Each new school year brings a mixture of emotions for students, whether they are heading off to pre-school through post-graduate studies. They may mourn the end of summer but look forward to seeing friends. They may be excited about new challenges but worry about academic pressure and peer pressure. As developing minds process these emotions, they often complicate emerging or ongoing behavioral health issues. Given that one-half of mental illnesses begin before age 14 and three quarters before age 25, it is critical, therefore, for students to have access to high-quality behavioral health services.

It’s important to gather data on new treatments and share what works. SAMHSA offers numerous resources for helping children, adolescents, and youth succeed in schools and universities. SAMHSA’s efforts in schools and on college campuses include:

  • Project AWARE grants to local and state educational agencies;
  • Safe Schools/Healthy Schools resources for reducing violence and promoting access to mental health services;
  • The Children’s Mental Health Initiative, funding systems of care for children, adolescents, and youth with serious emotional disturbance;
  • Mental Health First Aid training for school personnel and other adults;
  • The Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Program; and
  • Support to the University of Massachusetts Medical School Transitions Research and Training CenterExternal Web Site Policy, which helps adolescents, youth, and young adults succeed in education, employment, and other facets of life.

Schools and universities continue to find innovative ways to meet the growing demand for behavioral health services in a time when resources are stretched thin. Some districts work with nonprofits to operate wellness centers in high schoolsExternal Web Site Policy, for example. At the university level, student groups, administrators, and private companies are getting creative. Radio station WBUR-Boston profiled some new approachesExternal Web Site Policy, including text-based therapy and peer support, campus peer support groups and an online platform for matching students with therapists who accept student insurance.

With the right resources, back-to-school time can be an exciting new beginning. Whether you’re a school employee, a community leader or a parent, it’s important to recognize when a young person needs help and to know where to turn when they do.

SAMHSA can help find treatment in the following ways:

SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); 1-800-487-4889 (TDD)

SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-200-273-TALK (8255)

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