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Suicide Is Not Chosen

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Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health

Suicide Is Not Chosen

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The death rates for eight of the 10 leading causes of death have decreased significantly, but not for the tenth leading cause — suicide. The national suicide rate has increased to 12.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 and for ages 18 to 35 — the prime of one’s life — only unintentional injuries account for more deaths.

Someone in this country dies by suicide every 12.9 minutes. And one of those deaths was a beautiful 16-year-old girl I knew and loved. I met her mom when she was a young nurse and I was a young social worker, both newly married, working for a state psychiatric hospital. We moved to the same suburb, became fast friends and had children. We gave our children every opportunity toward a path to success. But there are bumps on the journey and bad things happen. I’ll never forget the call and my friend will never recover from the loss.

I’m adding my voice to a growing chorus determined to make suicide prevention a national priority. I’m honored to serve on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Executive Committee and I applaud the work of the Alliance’s Research Task Force, co-led by National Institute of Mental Health Director Tom Insel and Jed Foundation Board Chair Phil Satow. Their Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention: An Action Plan to Save Lives gives us a suicide prevention roadmap.

If we implement the roadmap with fidelity, we will reduce suicides by 20 percent in the next five years and by 40 percent in the next 10. The numbers aren’t arbitrary. The task force based them on exisitng interventions’ effectiveness and the suicide attempts and deaths prevented. Suicide is not chosen, it happens when pain exceeds one’s resources for coping with pain. We need to know more and we need to use what we know.

We can implement effective strategies to prevent suicide and its devastating aftermath. Everyone has a role to play. The National Council’s 2,200+ member organizations can transform health care delivery for individuals at highest risk for suicide and we can adopt a “Zero Suicide” approach to suicide care. We’re starting with education, launching a six-part webinar series in collaboration with the Action Alliance and National Institute for Mental Health featuring the Prioritized Research Agenda for Suicide Prevention.

I urge you to join us for the following virtual events:

  • January 29 — Why do people become suicidal? View recording
  • February 24 — How can we better detect/predict suicide risk?
  • April 2 — What interventions prevent suicidal behavior?
  • April 29 — What are the most effective services to treat and prevent suicidal behavior?
  • May 27 — What suicide interventions outside of health care settings reduce risk?
  • June 24 — What research infrastructure do we need to reduce suicidal behavior?

UPDATE: Register now for the second webinar in this series, How can we better detect and predict suicide risk?, Feburary 24 at 2:00pm Eastern/11:00am Pacific.


* This blog and webinar series are produced in collaboration with the Action Alliance and National Institute for Mental Health. 

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