Feds Create New Strategy to Fight Suicide

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(CNN) — A new national strategy, unveiled by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and representatives from the military and the private sector, aims to reduce the number of suicides in the United States.

Suicide, according to the group, is becoming a serious public health problem in America. For every person who takes their own life, more than 30 others attempt it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In fact, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country, claiming more than twice as many lives each year as homicide — and that number is rising.

The 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention hopes to give families, medical personnel and communities more options to help those who may be thinking about suicide. It also strives to allocate more money to clinics to provide help to more people, along with resources to help better diagnose suicide tendencies in certain individuals.

According to HHS, although suicide affects all age groups, teens and military personnel, as well as the elderly, seem to have the highest rates.

Health officials say almost 16 percent of students in grades 9 to 12 report they have seriously considered suicide, while 7.8 percent have attempted suicide one or more times over the last 12 months.

As for military personnel, “We are losing more of our soldiers to suicide than combat,” said John McHugh, secretary of the Army. “Yet only 59 percent of those military personnel who have attempted suicide actually had been deployed overseas or saw battle, so there must be some other factor, other than the aftermath of war. Something must be done.”

McHugh pointed to the Veterans Crisis Line, which is a hotline designed for military personnel in crisis, as a good step toward helping military men and women, as well as President Barack Obama’s pledge to provide funding to hire 1,600 more mental health professionals to work with service members who are suffering from depression and PTSD.

The strategy is even incorporating social media. Facebook executives announced the social website will continue with its Report Suicidal Content link, which allows friends to report a suicidal comment posted by other friends. The person who posted the comment will immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. The toll-free number is comprised of 152 local crisis centers designed to help people who have suicidal thoughts.

“In order to lower these numbers,” Sibelius noted, “We must take action against suicide together, as a community.”

By Val Willingham

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