Statement by NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Lori Tremmel Freeman on Local Health Department Initiatives to Prevent Suicide During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Sep 01, 2023 | NacchoVoice

Washington, DC, September 1, 2023 — September 1, 2023, marks the start of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Throughout this month, National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), representing the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments, honors those lost from suicide, acknowledges the profound grief experienced by the families and friends of those whose lives have been lost, and recognizes those working to prevent suicide in their communities.

Over half a million lives were lost to suicide in the United States between 2011 and 2022. Rates of suicide deaths are on the rise, and tragically, in 2021, one person died by suicide every 11 minutes. Provisional data indicate that the trend is continuing with the number of suicide deaths in 2022 at a record high of 49,369 suicide deaths. This devastating increase has placed suicide among the top nine leading causes of death for individuals aged 10-49. These numbers do not account for non-fatal attempts, those who have experienced suicidal thoughts, those who have seriously considered suicide, or those who have made a plan—which further reflect the severity of suffering of many Americans.

While suicide is a wide-ranging public health problem that impacts every community, certain groups are disproportionately affected: Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) peoples, LGBTQIA + individuals, veterans, older adults (ages 75+), and people with disabilities have disproportionately higher rates of suicide, suicide attempts, or suicidal ideation. Black youth ages 10-19 saw the largest increase in suicide rates from 2000-2020 (up 78%), and shockingly, one study found that Black children ages 5-11 are two times as likely to die by suicide than white children.

It is urgent that we take action to address this preventable public health issue. Local health departments are uniquely situated within their communities to reduce risk factors, strengthen protective factors, and save lives. During National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, NACCHO praises our local health department members and public health partners who work diligently each day to reduce suicide rates in their communities.

NACCHO is proud to highlight the work of local health departments to prevent and respond to suicide, including:

Howard County (MD): The Howard County Health Department’s Bureau of Behavioral Health and the Howard County Local Health Improvement Coalition work collaboratively with multiple partner agencies to address suicide across the lifespan through the Healthy Minds and Suicide Prevention Coalition (HMSPC). Howard County’s programs include a multi-phased Youth Suicide Prevention Plan and marketing campaign, It’s Ok to Ask, to increase awareness of and reduce stigma around youth suicide, and an evidence-based program, Sources of Strength, to create healthy norms and cultures through peer social networks to prevent suicide and promote mental health.

Teller County (CO): The Teller County Mental Health Alliance (TCMHA), which is Chaired by the Director of the Teller County Department of Public Health and Environment, has made an impressive commitment to improving residents’ behavioral health and well-being. To address barriers and challenges in accessing services, reduce suicides by firearm, and promote resilience and emotional health for Teller County residents, TCMHA is working to strengthen collaboration across service providers to better support resource and capacity issues using Patient Journey Mapping; conduct collaborative cross-training for law enforcement, first responders, and community faith leaders; and implement safe gun storage by educating the community about suicide prevention and crisis intervention with their Safe Homes Safer Families project.

In addition, NACCHO is currently collaborating with Education Development Center (EDC) on the Suicide, Overdose, and Adverse Childhood Experiences Prevention Capacity Assessment Tool (SPACECAT) project to build local health departments’ capacity to address the intersection between suicide prevention, overdose prevention, and adverse childhood experiences prevention.

For more on the work of NACCHO and local health departments, as well as resources to address suicide, view our blog post here.

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About NACCHO

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.


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