Guest Post Written By: Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
One of my nephews was diagnosed with depression when he was in high school. He was treated, eventually finished school, and graduated from college at the age of 25. He was accepted to law school, but tragically, he died by suicide shortly after receiving his acceptance letter.
Being at CDC where so many people are dedicated to preventing these kinds of tragedies gives me an opportunity to ensure that fewer families will experience such loss and disruption.
Suicide is a major public health problem in this country, one that can have a lasting and harmful effect on a person, his or her family and their community. For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Nearly 14 percent of high school students report seriously considering suicide – which equals three students in an average classroom size of 20. Research also shows the estimated cost of youth suicide to be more than $6 billion a year in medical costs and work loss, in this country alone. Each one of these deaths highlights the need for successful prevention efforts.
To be successful, prevention must also be actionable. The power of research is what we do with that knowledge. For youth suicide, the magnitude of the issue makes it quite clear that there is a need for actionable knowledge. We are working with SAMHSA and three Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act grantees in Tennessee, Oregon, and Maine to develop “actionable knowledge tools.”
- The Tennessee Lives Count initiative created the Gatekeeper Training Implementation Support System (GTISS), an online resource that provides tools to support schools and other organizations who are putting in place gatekeeper training programs. These are suicide prevention programs that center around training adults who frequently come into contact with youth (e.g. teachers, coaches, social workers, etc.) on how to recognize the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior, and properly refer youth to services that can help them. The GTISS helps organizations to successfully put these kinds of programs in place.
- The Native American Rehabilitation Association’s Life is Sacred Native Youth Suicide Prevention Program is built upon the unique role culture plays in prevention of youth suicide. Several communications tools were developed for tribal leaders, service providers, and families to provide easy to understand, actionable information on factors that put youth at risk for suicide and protect them from it.
- The Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program (MYSPP) developed the MYSPP Early Identification and Referral Data Toolkit an online resource that provides guidance and actionable data collection tools to help schools understand the problem of suicide in their school, and how to improve the suicide prevention programs and services they are providing their students.
Through our collaboration, we’ve developed a series of briefs to help integrate the most recent research into actionable suicide prevention efforts for communities. We believe it will help suicide prevention practitioners put suicide prevention into action.
- Putting Knowledge into Action to Prevent Violence
This brief goes into greater detail on the actionable knowledge framework and how communities can put science into action to prevent suicide and other forms of violence.
- Suicide Prevention: A Public Health Issue
This brief explains why suicide is a public health issue, and the unique role that public health plays in preventing suicide in communities.
- Preventing Suicide Through Connectedness
This brief explains how connectedness between individuals, families, and organizations can help prevent suicide and increase well-being.
Our hope is that these tools and resources will have an important impact on the work of suicide prevention. By bringing action to the evolving base of knowledge, we hope to have a lasting impact and ultimately, save lives.