We Can All Help Reduce Suicides In Our State
BY MARK BINKLEY
Published in The State newspaper on 12/15/2019
According to data released earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates are increasing significantly: the statistics revealed that suicide rates in South Carolina have increased by 38% since 1999.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has reported that 811 South Carolinians died by suicide in 2018 — and attempts among youths between the ages of 10 and 24 have increased 43% since 2010.
What can we do to prevent such tragic losses in our state?
The South Carolina Department of Mental Health and organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-SC, Mental Health America-SC and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-SC have been working independently and together to combat this public health issue. But in addition to agencies and organizations, individual citizens can also play a role in helping to reduce suicides. People contemplating suicide don’t want to die. They want to put an end to painful thoughts and feelings, and they aren’t thinking clearly during a crisis.
The good news is that most suicide crises do not last very long, and almost anyone can help someone in crisis to survive the moment. And the truth is that most people who survive a suicide attempt do not make a second attempt — especially if they go on to receive mental health services.
That’s why the South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition was formed in 2016 to develop a state plan.
The coalition, co-chaired by former South Carolina Department of Mental Health State Director John Magill and state Sen. Katrina Shealy, brings together lawmakers with leaders in nonprofit, public and private organizations. And late last year the coalition published the SC Suicide Prevention Plan 2018-2025 as a guide to prevent suicides.
In addition, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health has created an Office of Suicide Prevention to:
- Implement a suicide prevention program.
- Develop suicide safety procedures and policies for organizations.
- Offer aftercare planning and support to those in need after an attempt.
- Provide training for high-risk populations like veterans, the LGBTQI community and youths.
- Fight the stigma and myths of suicide.
- Raise awareness about available resources.
- Provide support after suicide deaths to promote healing.
This unified effort has trained more than 13,000 state medical professionals in effective clinical practices: it has also provided prevention training to more than 11,000 South Carolinians, as well as to numerous agencies and organizations. But much more work must be done.
Our state must work as a community to address suicide and keep South Carolinians safe and healthy.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at (800) 273-8255 for confidential support. And to seek training for yourself or your organization, contact the South Carolina Department of Mental Health’s Office of Suicide Prevention at OSP@scdmh.org.