Poll shows most believe suicide can be prevented

When asked in a recent nationwide poll if suicide can be prevented, most Americans answered "yes" and 92 percent believe services for mental health should be included in every health care plan.

But the Harris poll, conducted on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other national organizations, also reveals that Americans believe mental health services are out of reach.

In 2013, 41,143 Americans killed themselves, according to the most recent numbers available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Georgia, 3,690 residents took their lives in 2013, and in Richmond County, 22 deaths were verified as suicides.

The national poll results released Sept. 1 at the start of Suicide Prevention Month also revealed 39 percent of the adults polled see suicide as a selfish act.

But survivors of suicide attempts said intense pain paralyzes coping skills to the point they believe their suicide saves others and that the world would be better without them, said Shelby Rowe, a survivor and the manager of education programs at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Although more women than men attempt suicide — the most recent data show 11 million Americans have considered suicide and 2.5 million have attempted it — the highest rate is among middle-age white men, said Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

Advocates believe suicide is preventable and they point to the successes by the Air Force, the Henry Ford Health System, England and Quebec in Canada. The Air Force has reduced suicides by 33 percent, said Doryn Chervin, executive secretary of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, another sponsor of the Harris poll.

In Georgia, the state has been divided into regions for mental health services that range from hospitalization, crisis response teams, out-patient treatments, and support in the community.

Angela Feeser, clinical director at Serenity Behavior Health Systems in Augusta, said help is always available 24/7 by calling the Georgia Crisis and Access Line. Anyone in crisis or anyone who needs help to find services can call the number.

Anyone in need can also go to Serenity without an appointment Monday through Friday.

Serenity has a 16-bed crisis unit for short-term stabilization, Feeser said. Everyone who leaves is set up with an appointment for outpatient care within 24 hours of his release, Feeser said. Without a set appointment, it's a 50-50 chance the person will follow up with outpatient care, she said.

The Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention believes the specialized crisis centers of respite care centers are crucial for success in prevention, Chervin said. One of the most vulnerable points is 30 to 60 days after hospitalization.

Feeser said the largest part of what Serenity does is providing community support for residents in need of mental health services. In addition to the Georgia crisis line, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also operates free of charge 24/7 for anyone in crisis or anyone seeking to help someone else.

Online, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center is stocked with information, as is the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, and the National Military Family Association.
(c)2015 The Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Ga.)
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