Mayor Adrian M. Fenty proclaimed September 7-12, 2009 as Suicide Prevention Week in the District of Columbia to raise awareness about risk factors associated with suicide and to support suicide prevention activities.
The District Department of Mental Health provides suicide screening with parental consent in middle and high schools through STOP Suicide (School-Based Teen Outreach Program for Suicide). Although rates of suicide are low in the District, many youth experience risk factors associated with suicide, including exposure to violence, trauma, poverty and substance abuse.
The 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found for District high school students 27 percent felt sad or hopeless almost every day for more than two weeks, 15 percent seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 12 percent made a suicide attempt.
“Studies show that children and youth may not appear depressed in a way that adults might expect. They may show a lack of patience, verbal or physical abuse with themselves or others, poor attention or concentration, and a lack of respect for property,” said Stephen T. Baron, DMH Director. “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.”
The Department of Mental Health offers emergency mobile crisis intervention services as well as prevention, early intervention and clinical services to youth and their families. Services also are offered in 58 public schools.
Suicide prevention and education programs taking place this week include presentations on suicide prevention principles during roll calls at police precincts across the District and in classrooms. More than 300 turquoise and purple suicide prevention awareness pins were handed out, and school based mental health clinicians wearing them are passing out consent forms to allow suicide and depression screenings and education.
In addition, posters advertising the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, were distributed and calls will be received at the DMH Access Helpline by trained crisis center staff who offer crisis counseling, suicide intervention, and mental health referral information.