Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has proclaimed September 5-11 as Suicide Prevention Week in the District of Columbia to encourage suicide prevention awareness and anti-stigma education programs. One person completes suicide every 15.2 minutes, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While the overall suicide rate has declined slightly from record highs in recent years, the suicide rate for this age group has more than doubled since the mid-1950s.
Many District youth experience risk factors associated with suicide, including exposure to violence, trauma, poverty, and substance abuse. The Mental Health Department works to prevent teen suicide through its Capital CARES (Citywide Approach to Reduce Risk for and Eliminate Youth Suicide) program. Capital CARES conducts voluntary screenings to identify youth who may be at risk for suicide or suicidal behavior, makes referrals for those who need help, and supports community based organizations that work with high risk youth.
"A great many suicides are preventable but the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide often discourages persons at risk for suicide from seeking life-saving help,” said Stephen T. Baron, Director of the Department of Mental Health.
The Department supports a 24/7 emergency crisis service for youth experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis. Teams of mental health clinicians respond to emergency calls whether in school, the home or community. In addition, trained mental health counselors are available by phone 24/7 on the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-888-793-4357.
A number of suicide awareness activities are scheduled during Suicide Prevention Week. In conjunction with the Student Support Center, Inc, Capital CARES is sponsoring a suicide prevention essay contest in several middle school and high schools including KIPP DC, The Washington Latin Public Charter School, Howard Road Academy Public Charter School and Nia Community Public Charter School. The Mental Health Department is conducting training on suicide awareness and prevention through its Training Institute. Capital CARES also is conducting training for community organizations. To sign up for the Training Institute, go to www.dmh.dc.gov or for a complete schedule, contact Robert Price, Capital CARES Project Coordinator at [email protected].
For more information about suicide warning signs and what to do, go to http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/warning-signs. The Department of Mental Health offers prevention and clinical services to youth and their families. To enroll in services or for more information, call 1-888-793-4357.
The Capital CARES 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.