September 13, 2004
First Lady Recognizes State and Local Efforts on World Suicide Prevention Day
During the event, the First Lady formally announced that the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program received the first annual New England Leadership Award from the Suicide Prevention Action Network in recognition of its groundbreaking work. Maine was one of the first states to implement a youth suicide prevention program and the one here has been copied by other states because of its comprehensive approach.
“Our goals are to raise awareness, knowledge and skills so that everyone in contact with youth at risk will have the competence and confidence to help prevent youth suicide,” said Cheryl DiCara, Coordinator of the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program. “Although suicidal behavior is difficult to recognize,” she acknowledged, “the more people there are who learn the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and how to respond, the better the chances are that we can prevent suicide among our young people.”
The Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program began in 1998 and since that time has provided training and educational resources to individuals in school and communities across the state. Staff members have provided school administrators with guidelines for recognizing signs of suicidal behavior among youth and responding to a suicide crisis. Through a grant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program is currently working with 12 high schools throughout the state to conduct comprehensive youth suicide prevention programs locally. The program also offers a toll free 24-hour statewide crisis hotline (1-888-568-1112).
Participants at the event included family members and friends of suicide victims. Suzanne Benoit, Chair of the Maine Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, spoke directly to these participants in acknowledging the pain and suffering of those left behind when a loved one completes suicide. “It is bittersweet emotion to think of saving other lives while at the same time grieving those who have been lost,” Benoit added. “For all of the survivors, thank you for your bravery and your efforts on behalf of prevention. You are not alone.”
In addition to hearing an update on program activities, participants at the event received news of upcoming suicide prevention training and educational offerings, and heard about efforts of a local school system and a community coalition actively working to prevent youth suicide in their respective areas.
Suicide claims an average of 25 young lives in Maine each year, a rate that is higher than the national average. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Maine young people between the ages of 15 and 34 and the third leading cause of death for those from 10 to 14. Many more young people make suicide attempts. The rate of hospitalization for self-inflicted injuries is higher among girls and young women than any other group in Maine.
More information about suicide prevention is available by calling the Information Resource Center toll free at 1-800-499-0027 or visiting the World Wide Web at www.maine.gov/suicide.