AUGUSTA – To mark National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in September, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is sharing the message that suicide prevention is up to all of us, and that anyone can save a life. Maine CDC promotes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's #BeThe1To campaign (www.BeThe1To.com) and encourages individuals to recognize and intervene when someone they know may be at risk of suicide.
Support for Mainers at risk of suicide is critical. Since 1999, suicide death rates have increased in nearly every state, rising more than 30% in half the states. In Maine, suicide death rates increased by 27% from 1999 through 2016, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among Maine youth and adults ages 10-35. Family members, friends, and co-workers can all play a critical role by helping find care and support for those struggling with thoughts of suicide.
"Asking someone if they are thinking about killing themselves does not increase their risk of attempting suicide," said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. "For someone contemplating suicide, knowing that someone cares and can connect them to help may be the thing that saves their life."
"The statistics regarding youth suicide are alarming," said Dr. Todd Landry, Director of Maine's Office of Child and Family Services, which oversees child welfare and children's behavioral health services. "Suicide is more common among vulnerable youth, so I encourage adults to engage with the youth in their lives – talk to them, ask them questions, and connect with them. For a youth who is struggling, that connection to a trusted adult who loves and cares about them can have tremendous importance."
Doctors and counselors have a chance to intervene with those at risk. Sixty-four percent of people who attempt suicide visit their doctor in the month before their attempt and 38% do so in the week before. The Maine CDC is promoting the Suicide Safer Care Training Portal (sweetser.academy.reliaslearning.com/), a resource developed in partnership with the Sweetser Training Institute, to help providers reduce the risk of suicide among people in their care. This resource offers free, evidence-based online training in suicide risk screening, intervention, treatment, and support.
"Screening and high-quality care for suicide risk should be as routine as screening and caring for a person with diabetes," said Director Shah. "People need to know it is a sign of strength to say they are struggling, and that help is available."
If you are thinking about suicide or are aware of someone who is, reach out for help. Contact the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.