LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – In 2018, 547 people died by suicide in Arkansas, making it the leading cause of violent death that year. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and partners want Arkansans to know there is help and hope.
ADH and the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs came together for a Suicide Prevention Awareness Month event at the State Capitol earlier this month to discuss the state’s efforts to reduce the number of suicide-related deaths.
Dr. Nate Smith, Secretary of Health, spoke in detail about the public health impact of suicide, including steps the ADH is taking to combat the high rate of suicides in the state. These steps include training community leaders and educators about how to help prevent suicides and running campaigns such as “Let’s Talk About It,” which promotes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“Where there’s help, there’s hope,” said Dr. Smith. “The Arkansas Department of Health is committed to providing help to Arkansans in the midst of crisis when they need it the most through training community leaders, education, and the Arkansas Lifeline Call Center.”
Over 1,000 Arkansans call the Arkansas Lifeline Call Center each month. The call center, mandated by Act 811 of 2017 and opened in December 2017, answers calls to the national line made in Arkansas. It is housed by ADH. On average, forty-six Arkansans per month lose their battles with mental illness. Veterans are particularly vulnerable.
“The VA stats are: an average of 20 Veterans die by suicide each day. About six of the 20 are recent users of Veterans Health Administration services. On average, there are 93 suicides among the general U.S. non-Veteran adult population per day,” Secretary of Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs Nate Todd said. “This is our challenge. We all need to watch over each other. All veterans, non-veterans and their friends and family can become partners in this fight to reduce suicide and veteran suicide in our country.”
An important component for the suicide prevention program is improving continuity of care and follow-up for individuals identified at-risk. The suicide prevention program is implementing integrated networks of care for communities to ensure that follow-up care and evidence-based treatments are effectively in place.
“No one organization can tackle suicide prevention alone. To save lives, multiple systems must work in a coordinated way to reach those in suicidal crisis where they are; the state needs partners and like-minded groups across all service sectors to help reduce the number of suicides,” said Dr. Smith.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans can access the Veteran Crisis Line by calling the national line and pressing 1. Anyone can also text the crisis line by sending TALK to 741741, or chat online at www.chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
The ADH Injury and Violence Prevention Section works to prevent suicides through education, resources, and awareness. To learn more about the trainings and resources that are available for your group, business, or school, visit http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programs-services/topics/suicide-prevention.