August 30, 2006
Suicide Prevention Week Events Planned
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AUGUSTA – In recognition of National Suicide Prevention Week, September 10-16 and World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, several events are being planned to enhance public awareness in Maine about suicide risk factors and prevention.
On Sunday, September 10, the Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will take place in Portland, beginning at 9 a.m. On Wednesday, September 13, the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program (MYSPP) will unveil its new Suicide Prevention website and host a Blaine House Tea from 2 to 4 p.m. in Augusta.
“These events help to raise awareness about suicide in Maine and prevention activities. First Lady Karen Baldacci will host the Blaine House event. DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey will speak and youth suicide prevention initiatives will be showcased,” said Cheryl DiCara, Coordinator of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program. “Under the leadership of Governor and First Lady Karen Baldacci, Maine has been working diligently to address youth suicides, the second-leading cause of death in Maine youth ages 15-24 from 1999-2003.”
While females attempt suicide more frequently, 80 percent of youth suicides are males, DiCara said. According to statewide surveys of students, about one in ten high school students report seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months, with more than 6% reporting that they made a suicide attempt. Between 5 and 15 percent of those who display suicidal behavior will repeat that behavior within one year.
It is important to understand that suicide is a symptom and a behavior, not an illness or diagnosis, she added. Risk factors that may increase the likelihood of a youth suicide include: previous suicide attempt(s); depression; conduct problems; schizophrenia; bipolar illness; anxiety; drug or alcohol abuse; trauma; loss of relationships; impulsive behavior; low self-esteem; family history of suicide; exposure to others who make suicide attempts or complete suicide; and the availability of ‘lethal means’ such as pills, poisons or weapons to complete suicide.
Since suicidal behavior is not a specific illness, interventions must be focused on identifying the presence of risk factors and addressing these risk factors with effective, proven interventions, DiCara said. This means removing highly lethal means of suicide from the individual’s environment, treating mental health and substance abuse challenges and strengthening the system of family and community supports.
If there are questions and concerns regarding an individual, please contact the statewide toll-free crisis number, 1-888-568-1112. It is available 24 hours a day and will connect the caller directly to the crisis provider in his/her community.
In addition, the MYSPP has posted a great deal of information on its new website, including a variety of links. It can be found at: http://www.mainesuicideprevention.org
The MYSPP is built upon a set of strategies consistent with the recommendations of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. The Statewide Program is led by the Department of Health and Human Services and is a collaborative effort among the agencies of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, which is chaired by First Lady Karen Baldacci. Its goals are to increase public awareness about youth suicide prevention; to reduce the incidence of suicide behavior among Maine youth ages 10-24; and to improve youth access to appropriate prevention and intervention services.