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Report outlines strategies to reduce suicide attempts, deaths

Wednesday, September 16, 2020  
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September 16, Wisconsin Health News

Wisconsin’s suicide rate increased 40 percent between 2000 and 2017, according to a report released this month that offers strategies to reduce attempts and deaths. 

Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, a statewide public-private partnership formed more than a decade ago and administered by Mental Health America of Wisconsin, released the report. Last year, 850 Wisconsinites died by suicide.

The report found the suicide rate was highest among people between 45 and 54. The rate for that population has more than doubled between 2000 and 2017. 

The majority of suicide deaths were men between 2013 and 2017, while the majority of those hospitalized or presenting at the emergency department with self-harm injuries were women. 

Suicide rates were highest among American Indians and Alaska Natives as well as white people. They were also higher in rural counties than in urban and suburban areas. 

Guns were the most commonly used method of suicide, and 71 percent of all people who died by firearm in Wisconsin between 2013 and 2017 were suicide deaths. Veterans accounted for one in every five suicide deaths. 

According to the report, suicide was the second leading cause of death among 10- to 19-year-olds between 2013 and 2017.

The report also found that half of LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin public high schools reported depression in 2017 and were three times more likely to have considered suicide than their peers. 

The plan recommends four main strategies to reduce suicide attempts and deaths. 

They include increasing and enhancing protective factors, like programs that build connections to community, co-workers, friends and families, as well as increasing safety around potentially lethal substances and weapons. 

The report also recommends increased access to care for at-risk populations, including through telehealth, and implementing best practices for prevention in healthcare settings, like tools for screening, assessment and treatment.

And it calls for improving surveillance of suicide and evaluation of prevention programs, including standardizing the investigation and reporting of suicide deaths. 

“A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention must go beyond a focus on mental health concerns and include other problems that are known to contribute to suicide, such as relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal and housing stress,” Leah Rolando, suicide prevention coordinator for Mental Health America of Wisconsin, said in a statement. “With these issues impacting many people right now, it is critical we foster an environment where all people, no matter their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, feel safe in their communities and free to ask for help.”