MONTGOMERY, Ala., March 7, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly twice as many people die by suicide in Alabama annually than by homicide. To help prevent this tragic loss of life, volunteer advocates from the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are visiting the state capitol on Wednesday, March 8th to encourage their legislative leaders to mandate suicide prevention training for health professionals and to mandate that colleges and universities communicate clearly with their students about mental health resources and programs on campus, and create more transparency and a standard protocol to support students after a suicide death. The advocates will meet with policymakers from 9 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. in room 609 of the Alabama State House to share state statistics, education and prevention resources and personal stories of those affected by suicide.
"Each year, suicide takes more lives in the U.S. than homicide, war and natural disasters combined. In Alabama, about two times as many people die by suicide each year than by homicide. It is a critical that we work together with legislators to prevent suicide and help saves lives," said Tracie Blackmon, AFSP advocate.
Health Professionals Training
Health professionals regularly encounter patients who are suicidal. According to a study published in the Annuals of Psychiatry, in the month prior to their death, 45 percent of people who die by suicide had contact with a primary care physician, and 19 percent had contact with mental health services. In the year prior to their death, 77 percent of people who die by suicide had contact with a primary care physician, and 32 percent had contact with mental health services. But there is not a mandatory suicide prevention training session that health professionals are required to attend, so they are left untrained in how to deal with people who are suicidal. Six states currently require this training via statute including Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Washington and Utah.
College Campus Mandates
Life-saving information, such as improving access to crisis intervention hotlines or text services, the availability of mental health programs and services, and suicide prevention resources both on and off campus, could be made easily accessible by all college and university students, faculty and staff. Schools could also improve communication standards and a protocol for support of students, faculty and staff following a suicide death on campus. If schools were more transparent about mental health services they offer, it would reduce the fear and misinformation surrounding mental health and reinforce help seeking behavior.
This is the fifth State Capitol Day in Alabama. Ms. Blackmon is part of a larger national contingent of AFSP volunteer advocates who will be visiting 35 state capitols across the United States in the spring of 2017 to bring best practices in suicide prevention to state legislators and their staff.
Suicide in Alabama
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death overall in Alabama. For people aged 15-24 in Alabama, it is the third cause of death. For those aged 10-14, it is the fourth leading cause of death. On average one person dies by suicide every 12 hours in the state.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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SOURCE American Foundation for Suicide Prevention