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Department of Mental Health Promotes Suicide Awareness and Prevention During National Suicide Prevention Week

Sunday, September 9, 2007
The Department of Mental Health is highlighting its suicide awareness and prevention program in DC public schools and charter schools.

(Washington, DC) The Department of Mental Health is highlighting its suicide awareness and prevention program in DC public and public charter schools during National Suicide Prevention Week which is September 9 -15. In addition, the Department is publicizing a list of suicide warning signs and what to do.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States among individuals between the ages of 15-24, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the overall suicide rate has declined slightly from record highs in recent years, the Department of Mental Health operates an Access Helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1-888-793-4357 for those who need it. Callers to the hotline are referred to immediate emergency assistance, if necessary, or to the most accessible community based mental health provider for ongoing care. The suicide rate for the 15-24 age group has more than doubled since the mid-1950s.

STOP Suicide (School-Based Teen Outreach Program for Suicide) conducts voluntary screenings to identify youth who may be at risk for suicide or suicidal behavior using an evidence-based screener, Columbia University TeenScreen. It also trains school employees on how to recognize signs and symptoms of depression and suicide, how to talk to suicidal youth, and how and where to make referrals for help.

STOP Suicide already has screened 248 youth from 12 DC public and public charter schools for suicide, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Alarmingly, 45% of the youth screened positive for some type of mental health issue. Six youth were referred immediately to hospitals. 19% reported a history of or current suicidal ideation or having made a suicide attempt. All positively screened youth were referred for an additional evaluation.

“The STOP Suicide Program raises awareness about suicide and other mental health issues with which many youth are struggling,” said Dr. Julie Goldstein Grumet, Project Director. “We can help students who might not otherwise be identified and their families get access to the services they need.”

About 230 school employees have been trained to look for warning signs and how to help. In addition, specialized training was held for community mental health service providers on treating suicide behavior in African-American youth.

For more information about warning signs and what to do, visit

The STOP Suicide project is funded by the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). National Suicide Prevention Week was started in 1968 by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), a national association of more than 1,200 individuals and organizations, to promote awareness and advocacy about suicide prevention. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States—more than homicide and HIV combined, according to 2004 data. More than 27,000 people commit suicide and more than 800,000 attempt suicide each year. Studies shows more than 90% of completed suicides had one or more mental disorders.