The Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) has released its first state plan for suicide prevention, making an important step in efforts to prevent the loss of lives by suicide in Mississippi.
Though the agency and its partners in the community have worked for years at suicide prevention efforts and to fight the misconceptions of mental illness, the Mississippi Suicide Prevention Plan marks the first time a comprehensive plan has been formalized and adopted. It is available on the DMH web site. Its release in September carries special significance as September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
“Whether we realize it or not, many of our friends and neighbors have been affected by suicide or mental illness,” DMH Executive Director Diana Mikula said. “Suicide affects people across all ages, races, and backgrounds, but through collaboration, sharing resources, and working towards common goals, we can prevent the tragedy of suicide.”
The plan contains three core sections: Assessment, Capacity, and Goals and Objectives. The Assessment section addresses demographics and trends in the mental health field. The Capacity section examines resources that are currently available to help address suicide. The Goals and Objectives section are the specific targets DMH is working towards with the plan.
Also included throughout the plan are a series of stories written by people who have been affected by suicide, either as loved ones or friends of someone who took his or her own life, or as people who have attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts themselves. Though some names have been changed, they are all the experiences of Mississippians who have faced tragedy.
Mississippi Board of Mental Health member Teresa Mosley shared her own personal experiences in the story, telling of the loss of her daughter Elisabeth.
“There was such a stigma attached to suicide and I wanted to share Elisabeth’s story in an attempt to start a conversation with individuals whose lives had been touched by this tragedy,” she writes in her story in the plan.
She said that unless someone is a suicide survivor, others have no idea how it feels to lose someone to the tragedy of suicide.
“When studying suicide, we like to look at statistics,” Mosley said. “However, those statistics don’t really make it real. It’s real when you love one of the numbers.”
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in Mississippi, but among people aged 10 to 24-years-old, it is the third leading cause of death. Suicide rates also increase with age, and older adults have the highest suicide rates.
The plan’s four goals hope to address those statistics, leading to greater coordination of suicide prevention activities, increase partnerships between public and private organizations, and promoting and improving mental health literacy and attitudes about mental health.
Mississippi’s First Lady, Deborah Bryant, shared a letter in the plan mentioning how she had been affected by suicide.
“I have seen first-hand the effect that suicide has on people’s lives, and my hope is that we do all we can to prevent unnecessary deaths by suicide,” she said.
She also notes that suicide affects people in all walks of life.
“People from all populations – young adults, military, older adults, males, and females – will be impacted by the goals and objectives in this Plan. An integrated and coordinated effort is essential to prevent suicide attempts and deaths, and to save the lives of those we love,” she wrote.
One thing all Mississippians should be aware of now is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. DMH is the statewide provider for this lifeline in Mississippi, and the line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. DMH also operates a toll-free helpline available at all hours by calling 1-877-210-8513.
Anyone who feels they need help, or who knows someone who appears to need help, is encouraged to call one of those numbers any time of the day and any day of the week. All calls are confidential and help is available at all times.
The Mississippi Suicide Prevention Plan is available on the DMH web site, www.dmh.ms.gov, located in the Resource Library.