Suicide Prevention Calls for a Public Health Approach

Suicide PreventionSeptember was Suicide Prevention Month and was observed with events such as the National Alliance on Mental Health NH (NAMINH) walk which exceeded its fundraising goal of $120,000 to address mental health and suicide in New Hampshire. High profile suicides such as those of Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams put a face to the sobering suicide statistics that are rising in the country and New Hampshire. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that suicide in New Hampshire rose nearly 50% during the period of 1999-2016. It is likely that all of us know someone, or a family member or friend of someone, who tragically died as a result of suicide. We are all touched by suicide in some way and we can all help prevent this growing public health problem in some way as well.

Why is suicide prevention a public health issue?

  1. Public health uses a population approach to improve the health of groups of people utilizing prevention measures that address groups versus the treatment of individuals.

    In New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Suicide Council developed the New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Plan which takes a population approach to prevent suicide for all people in communities in our state.

  2. A public health approach to suicide prevention utilizes a primary prevention approach, focusing on suicidal behavior before it occurs and attends to an array of risk and protective factors.

    The National Alliance on Mental Health: New Hampshire (NAMINH) hosts a broad range of education offerings to help individuals, groups and communities learn about the risk and protective factors and warning signs of suicide.

  3. Public health seeks to increase our understanding of suicide through data collection and science so that new solutions can be found and evaluated.

    The New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services is working to improve and expand suicide surveillance systems to better describe and fully understand suicide in the state
  4. The field of public health has long recognized that complex public health problems such as suicide call for multi-disciplinary partnerships and collaborations that bring together diverse perspectives and expertise both at the state and local levels to identify and implement effective solutions.

    The New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Council is illustrative of this approach at the state level. NAMINH has been recognized nationally for its Connect Program which works to educate and foster relationships among members of New Hampshire communities to prevent suicide through a comprehensive community approach.

While suicide rates rise in the state, New Hampshire public health professionals and communities need to continue to work together to address the growing problem. Attending the upcoming NH Suicide Prevention Conference on November 1, 2108 presents an opportunity to learn more about what we can do as professionals. As individuals we can reach out to our friends, co-workers, and family members if we are concerned that they are experiencing depression, despair or may be contemplating suicide. Don’t wait, reach out today.
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