The Tennessee Department of Health today announced receipt of a $750,000 funding award for suicide prevention efforts over the next five years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program includes a focus on vulnerable populations at increased risk for suicide. This funding will provide a comprehensive public health approach based on data and science to address risk factors that contribute to suicide. TDH is one of only nine organizations in the U.S. chosen to receive this funding.
“Suicide can impact anyone and any family, regardless of status, position or location, and the impact of these tragic deaths is magnified because they are preventable,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey, MD, MBA, FAAP. “We are grateful for this opportunity to expand our work to prevent suicide and empower others to serve as a resource for someone in crisis and help save lives in Tennessee.”
Suicide is a growing public health crisis that took more than 48,000 lives in the United States in 2018, according to the CDC. In Tennessee, TDH data show 1,220 people died by suicide in 2019, including 32 children aged 17 and under. Within the past six years, Tennessee’s overall suicide rate increased by 24 percent, from 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014 to 17.9 in 2019.
“Suicide takes a toll on too many Tennessee families, and we are excited about this opportunity to make a positive intervention and potentially save lives,” said Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW. “This grant pairs perfectly with recent investments in suicide prevention budgeted by Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly to expand the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network and serve youth and young adults with suicide prevention and mental health promotion activities.”
In this comprehensive suicide prevention approach, TDH will expand existing efforts and implement new activities. Plans include increasing engagement of partners through a multi-disciplinary stakeholder group with representatives of vulnerable populations; expanding the number of people trained to identify and support those at risk of suicide; increasing students’ coping and problem solving skills by training teachers to implement the Good Behavior Game in the classroom; increasing surveillance efforts to identify those at risk of suicide and strengthening access to care by providing tele-health training to mental health care providers.
Building on several years of data collection and cross-sector collaboration, TDH officially launched its Suicide Prevention Program in 2019 as authorized by the Suicide Prevention Act of 2018 (TCA 68-3-703). Program work has included forming a Suicide Prevention Stakeholder Task Force Team; developing a statewide survey to identify gaps in mental health programs and determine what support is needed for those at risk of suicide; studying suicide-related emergency visits and developing a rapid prevention response model to prevent youth suicide; and providing suicide prevention training to groups across the state.
Learn more about suicide prevention work in Tennessee in the 2020 TDH Suicide Prevention Report available online at www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/health/program-areas/vipp/TDH-2020-Suicide-Annual-Report.pdf.
If you need help or know someone who does, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.