David Statum

Mental health professional David Statum, who serves as a coordinator for the Coffee County Family Treatment Program, has studied the impacts of suicide for years. Suicide prevention initiatives are essential to collecting information, discovering trends and erasing the stigma associated with suicide. One of the new state laws taking effect Jan. 1 will focus on suicide prevention.

According to Tennessee Department of Health, 1,163 Tennesseans died by suicide in 2017, and with the trend going upward, the state is trying to tackle the issue.  

One of the new state laws taking effect Jan. 1 will focus on suicide prevention.

The new bill (SB1949) was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam on May 21.

It authorizes the commissioner of health to create the Tennessee Suicide Mortality Review Program for the purpose of identifying and addressing the factors contributing to suicide deaths and facilitate state systems and changes to prevent suicide deaths.

The law establishes a Tennessee suicide mortality review and prevention team that will be administratively attached to the department of health.

The team’s duties will focus on reviewing incidences of suicide occurring in Tennessee and compiling information concerning suicide.

The team will also be tasked with identifying ways to reduce the incidence of suicide and reporting those findings.

Ultimately, the goal of the program will be to decrease the number of suicide deaths in Tennessee.

Suicide deaths are significantly underestimated and inadequately documented, thus preventing efforts to identify and reduce or eliminate such deaths, and that’s why such initiatives are essential.

 

Local efforts

In addition to state officials battling the issue, local organizations and individuals are also working to tackle the problem.

Mental health professional David Statum, who serves as a coordinator for the Coffee County Family Treatment Program, has studied the impacts of suicide for years. The family treatment is one of the programs under the umbrella of the Coffee County Drug Court Foundation.

Suicide prevention initiatives are essential to collecting information, discovering trends and erasing the stigma associated with suicide, said Statum.

Such initiatives are the first steps toward solving the problem and saving the lives of the at-risk individuals. 

“Suicide awareness and prevention are important,” Statum said. “Not necessarily everyone who is in trouble cries out for help. What’s important is that we listen to the people who ask for help and that we keep our eyes open for those who seem to need a friend.

“Sometimes all it takes is telling someone, whether you’re close or not, that you’re there for them,” Statum added. “Sometimes that’s all that someone needs to hear.”

One of the key factors of preventing suicide is discovering the reason for that intention. And often there are signs preceding the suicide attempts.

Citing Dr. Courtney Bagge, an expert serving on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention task force, Statum said the majority of “recent attempters tell us that in the week before their attempt, they didn’t think of any plan or decide to act until three hours before the event.”

Usually, there are “triggers” such as an “interpersonal life events,” said Statum.

Fighting with a romantic partner or friend and alcohol use increase the risk of attempting suicide, he added.

“Depression and other mood disorders are the most common disorders among people who die by suicide,” Statum said. “In addition to previous suicide attempts, being the biggest warning sign of potential suicide attempt, there are others.

“Some suicide warning signs include depression, loss of interest, rage, irritability, humiliation, anxiety, acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye and/or giving away prized possessions.”

 

Troubling facts

 

According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, suicide deaths are a serious public health issue affecting families and society.

Every 12 minutes, someone dies by suicide in the United States. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.

Veterans account for 10 percent of all suicide deaths in Tennessee, as reported by the department of health.

The number of recorded suicide deaths in Tennessee has increased from 945 to 1,110 between 2014 and 2016, representing a 16 percent increase and an overall upward trend.

Three adults in the state die by suicide each day.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Tennessee, claiming over 1,000 lives per year, with about 100 of them between the ages of 10-24 — suicide is the second-leading cause of death within this age group.

Nationally, suicide rates among youths (ages 15-24) have increased more than 200 percent in the last fifty years.

Firearms are the most common method of suicide regardless of sex and race.

Suicide cuts across ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries.

 

Preventing suicide

Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live, but they are unable to see alternatives to their problems, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

Most suicidal people give definite warning signals of their intentions, but others are often unaware of the significance of these signs or unsure what to do about them.

For more information about suicide facts, services and resources, visit www.tspn.org.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or use Tennessee Mobile Crisis Services at 855-274-2471.

 

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at ecawley@tullahomanews.com

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