Suicide is the eighth-leading cause of death in Vermont, and 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), Vermont’s rate of suicide deaths was 18.9 per 100,000 people in 2016. This is higher than the national average and the highest in New England. Vermont is a very rural state, and rural counties in the U.S. have had consistently higher rates of suicide than urban counties from 2001 to 2015, the CDC reports. Higher death rates from suicide in rural areas reflect the challenges in disseminating care to communities where providers have limited resources. Services tend to be more spread out and isolated. Also, these populations tend to be less educated, with lower incomes, making it difficult to receive the health care that is needed.
Suicide is preventable. Zero Suicide is a national program adopted by the Vermont Safe Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The Rutland Safe Suicide Care Project is an initiative to address this public health crisis in our state and community. Zero Suicide operates under the foundational belief that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems, are preventable. Therefore, it is important to make the system of health care delivery in our community as efficient as possible in order that lives may be saved. This project explores opportunities to build better communication between health care providers in the local area and apply those practices when giving care. As a result, behavioral health providers, primary-care practitioners, and hospital inpatient and emergency departments in the Rutland area will be equipped with evidenced-based knowledge to improve the care they give to those who are suicidal.
There are treatment protocols that are part of Zero Suicide that will be taught to service providers. They include proper screening, assessment, treatment, recovery supports and follow-up at each level of the care delivery system. Rutland Regional Medical Center, through its hospital emergency and inpatient departments, will be a vital partner in creating a suicide safe system of care. Rutland Regional clinicians and physicians who are affiliated with the hospital will take part in training activities and will support the project by using ways to develop and track measures to see if the crisis-related treatments they provide are effective. Rutland Mental Health Services and Community Health Rutland will play a critical role in facilitating and supporting Zero Suicide training among its staff and primary-care contacts. The project also aims to reduce the use of emergency departments for crisis visits related to suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts, as those at-risk of suicide will have better access to services through a system of suicide care in other health settings, such as their physician’s office.
There is hope for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. The firm belief of Zero Suicide is there can be support and effective treatment for this critical condition so that those who are experiencing suicidality can receive the help they need. With the investment in more effective and timely treatments, we can see lives saved through the efforts enacted by this very important program.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, there is help. Resources are available to support you or your family, 24 hours/day, as follows:
Rutland Mental Health Crisis Line: (802) 775-1000
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-TALK (8255)
Vermont Crisis Text Line: Text VT to 741741 — Crisis Text Line is FREE — 24/7 support. You get an automated text response first, and then a response from a trained crisis counselor. They work with you until you are cool and calm and have a positive plan for next steps.
Vermont 211: Dial 2-1-1 anywhere in Vermont or visit www.Vermont211.org to get live referral help to public and private state and community services.
GLBT National Health Center: (888) 843-4564
GLBT National Youth Talk line: (800) 246-PRIDE (7743)
Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
Veterans Crisis Line: www.veteranscrisisline.net 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and PRESS 1
This week’s Health Talk was written by Christine Anderson, LICSW, senior director of social work, Rutland Regional Medical Center www.rrmc.org.