Suicide is not an easy thing to talk about, but it is a significant public health issue. In 2009, the number of suicides in the United States was higher than the number of car accidents.
The Vermont Suicide Prevention Center is hoping to highlight the depth of the problem in our state, and they'll be bringing that message to the Statehouse later this week.
"Our medical examiner indicates that he sees approximately two and sometimes more than that, suicides per week. That's on average, in any given year, 100 suicides. The range over the last 10 years has gone from 80 suicides to 140 suicides," said JoEllen Tarallo-Falk, the center's director. "We have stabilized off a bit, thinking that perhaps we've come down from the high peak during Hurricane Irene and the economic crisis was hitting so highly, but we still continue to be extremely concerned about numbers that are far above the national average in all age ranges."
"Everybody at some point in their life experiences some significant mental health problems or concerns where they need help," she said. The group focuses on prevention and training others to identify those people at risk. She said people who die by suicide have either not been identified or they have not been appropriately treated and followed up.
Tarallo-Falk said by focusing on prevention, they can offset other recurring health problems like mental health, substance abuse, sexual violence and domestic violence. "In the elderly, one of the high risk factors is chronic pain. In adolescents it's facing some complex relational problems or problems around personal identity and not having the coping skills to get them through. The highest demographic for suicide is white, middle-age men who are feeling a tremendous burden around economics and personal purpose with regard to providing."
The center has trained over 1,400 individuals in suicide prevention and have worked with higher education institutions on suicide prevention plans, along with a statewide protocol for suicide prevention and post-vention. The center receives federal funding, but that will end in July. They get a $100,000 allocation from the state Department of Mental Health, and they'd like to receive and additional $750,000 from the state.
"We need to try and support the programming at level it is, or expand it," Tarallo-Falk said, "If somebody fell down and broke their leg we would not walk by and let that person suffer. If somebody has a mental health problem, it is the same exact approach. Everyone has a place in the big picture and has a contribution to make. We want to give people the message that feeling down or depressed is a common experience and that reaching out for help or reaching out to somebody you see may need help is a healthy response and when trauma hits, help is especially important. "