Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Suicide continues to be a threat to teens, others

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In a two-week period of time in August there were four teen suicides reported in Middle Tennessee and at least one incident where a teen was threatening to commit suicide but retreated after a law enforcement officer saw him in distress on a busy highway bridge, stopped and, speaking with him, convinced him that suicide was not the right choice.

This teen was one of a few fortunate ones.

There's not always someone there to save a life or to provide the necessary counseling as in this case to help a young person rationalize that there are better answers for life's problems than suicide.

Each year in September, Tennesseans along with the rest of the nation reflect on suicide, study the grim statistics and learn about what might be done to help deter self-inflicted deaths as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Now one of the leading causes of death for ages 10 through 19, suicide, according to the latest data offered by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Center, is also one of the primary causes of death for several other age groups.

In 2014, the latest year that data is available, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Tennesseans between the ages of 25 and 34, the third-leading cause of death for those in a 15-24 age group and ranked as the fourth-leading cause of death for age groups 35-44 and 45-54.

Those in Tennessee closest to this concern are sounding an alarm being heard across the state because, as bad as the national rate for suicide is, it's even worse in the Volunteer State.

In 2014, suicide nationwide was reported at a rate of just less than 13 deaths per 100,000 people. In Tennessee, the suicide rate for the same period was considerably higher, registering at 14.4.

Despite the high rate of suicide in Tennessee as compared to the national rate, the frequency of suicide in the state is at the lowest point it has been over the past six most current reporting years.

The highest suicide rates in Tennessee, according to available data over the most recent 10-year period, occurred in 2008 and 2013 and were reported at 15.7 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

Counseling professionals at Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, the parent non-profit organization that oversees Cumberland Mental Health Services in Wilson County, advise that many suicides could have been prevented, if friends, relatives, work associates or others had been aware that a victim was at risk.

When signs of severe depression are present or when someone's behavior may indicate they are contemplating suicide, we should be attentive and urge this person in distress to seek help from a professional counselor; make them aware that the stress or complications in life they are facing can be resolved; and, if necessary, make others such as parents, spouses, etc., aware of your conversations and your perceptions as to whether this person may be at risk of suicide.

Volunteer Behavioral Health provides a 24-hour crisis call line, 1-800-704-2651, specifically directed to be responsive to suicidal issues and cases.

If there is believed to be a concern or if there is a clear and present reason for concern, Volunteer Behavioral Health urges use of the crisis call center as a resource to help possibly prevent someone from taking their life.

Suicide is frequent, is ugly and is tragic. It affects all ages. And in almost all cases is preventable.

Nathan Miller is the center director at Cumberland Mental Health Services in Lebanon.

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Cumberland Mental Health Services, mental health, Nathan Miller, suicide, suicide prevention, wellness
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