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Sunday, May 1

Mental health forum: Illinois’ Suicide Prevention Planning Continues

Patricia Reedy, LCSW, Chief of Social Services Division of Mental Health, Illinois Department of Human Services

  

Most NASW members in Illinois are, I believe, somewhat familiar with the major suicide prevention effort upon which the state has embarked. This article is a brief summary and update of that effort.

 

Over the last ten to fifteen years, the American public has become increasingly aware that suicide is one of our most pressing public health issues. The statistics on suicide are staggering. In 2000, for example, suicide was the 3rd

leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds in the United Statesi. Suicide is the twelfth most frequent cause of death in Illinois. An average of three suicides are completed in Illinois every dayii.

 

In 1999, then Surgeon General David Satcher issued a national call to action on suicide preventioniii. A National Suicide Prevention Plan was formulated in the same yeariv. In Illinois, as in many states, a major public-private partnership developed and collaborated in formulating the draft outline of Illinois’ Suicide Prevention Plan. NASW is part of that historic partnership.

 

In August of 2004, the governor signed into law the Suicide Prevention, Education, and Treatment Act (HB4558). This law mandates the completion of the Illinois Suicide Prevention Plan, the creation of a public awareness campaign, and the appointment of a formal Suicide Prevention Task Force. The Task Force resides, organizationally, in the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Injury Prevention Division. Many other governmental and nongovernmental entities, as well as scores of private citizens, are involved in the effort.

 

The Suicide Prevention Plan’s current draft consists of content areas such as:

• Increased suicide screening: health professionals should be more conscious of the risk of suicide, and should ask people in distress if they are suffering from suicidality. We should give a clear message that it’s okay to talk about it if one is suffering from suicidal feelings.

• Reduction of the stigma of suicide: families who suffer the loss of a member to suicide have suffered alone for literally hundreds of years. The stigma has made it next to impossible for many people to get support after a loved one’s suicide.

• Improvement of data collection: The stigma of suicide has contributed to a situation in which suicides go unreported, or reported incorrectly. Most experts agree that, as staggering as the statistics on suicide are, they underestimate the problem.

• Improvement of training for health and mental health professionals: Despite the extent of the problem of suicide and the fact that most people who suicide have talked about their suicidality to someone, mental health professionals’ training in the treatment of people who are suicidal is unstandardized. Amazingly, it is possible to prepare oneself academically for a mental health career in a variety of disciplines without formal training in the treatment of people who have suicidal crises.

 

Specific, measurable goals and objectives are being formulated by the Task Force in these and other conceptual areas. The Task Force is attempting to ensure that the plan is relevant to the ethnic and geographic diversity that exists in Illinois.

 

If you are interested in becoming part of this effort, feel free to call Patricia Reedy, LCSW at 312-814- 2707. I’ll be happy to discuss with you the multiple ways in which you can participate in this momentous effort. If you prefer, you can email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Meetings of the full Task Force occur every other month and are arranged in different geographic locations of the state.

 

iIn Harm’s Way: Suicide in America. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/NIMHharmsway/pdf

 

iiSuicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org/statepages/factsheets/il_datasheet.pdf

 

iiiUS Public Health Service, The SurgeonGeneral’s Call to Action to Prevent Suicide,Washington, DC: 1999 http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/calltoaction/calltoaction.pdf

 

ivNational Mental Health Information Center, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration,   http://www.mentalhealth.org/publications/allpubs/SMA01-3518/default.asp

Posted on 05/01/05 at 01:20 PM

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