National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Launched Today
“Preventing suicide is everyone’s business…it’s time to turn our attention to prevention,” said U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, at the release today of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The revised strategy, an update from 10 years ago, is based on work by the Surgeon General and the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and aligns with the National Prevention Strategy action plan, released earlier this year.
Like the National Prevention Strategy, a component part of the new Suicide Prevention Strategy is the emphasis on partnerships across the private and public sectors to accomplish cross-cutting goals. The private sector co-chair is Gordon H. Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. The Public sector co chair is Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
Suicides Impact Service Personnel and the General Public
Each year, nearly 30,000 people commit suicide—one person every fifteen minutes—and nearly eight million people contemplate suicide, said Dr. Benjamin at an event in Washington, D.C., today to announce the release of the Strategy. The military has seen about one suicide per day since 2012 began, and a doubling of suicides in July over the previous month.
In a recent interview with NewPublicHealth, Jonathan Woodson, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Defense spoke about the impact of suicide in the military and the general population:
“We’ve been at war for over a decade. We’ve asked a lot of our men and women in the armed forces; going to war changes everybody. I don’t think there’s a person who doesn’t deploy and is in that environment and comes back the same way. Most people will adjust… But there is a segment in which those experiences become problematic… suicide is often an impulsive act, it’s often a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and as a result, we need to prepare communities better to recognize symptoms and respond or rescue individuals.” [Stay tuned for the full interview with Dr. Woodson tomorrow.]
The priority goal of the Action Alliance is to save 20,000 lives in the next five years. Objectives include transforming health care systems to significantly reduce suicide; changing the public conversation around suicide and suicide prevention; and increasing the quality, timeliness and usefulness of surveillance data regarding suicidal behaviors. Specific strategies proposed to address these objectives include:
- Address the needs of vulnerable groups, tailored to the cultural and situational contexts in which they are offered, and seek to eliminate disparities in suicide prevention.
- Bring together public health and behavioral health; and
- Promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means among individuals with identified suicide risks.
“We want you to talk about it,” said Dr. Benjamin at today’s event. “Don’t be afraid to ask: ‘are you thinking about killing yourself?’ Working together we can all help to prevent suicide.”
- Read a guide from the Mayo Clinic about helping someone you thing could be considering suicide.
- Access a mental health locator from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
- Call Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s new toll-free number, 1-800 273 TALK (8255), which is confidential and free.