On Thursday, February 16, c Representatives of the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center, members of the Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition, Vermont Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and other key partners were at the State House for a variety of advocacy and awareness activities.
This event was sponsored by the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center, The Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Vermont Department of Mental Health, and Representative Anne Donahue. Donahue presented a House Resolution, recognizing the efforts in suicide prevention and that of the VT Data and Surveillance Work Group.
Donahue of Northfield and Masland of Thetford introduced Bill H. 184 “Evaluation and Tracking of Suicide Profiles.” Dr. Tom Delaney, Assistant Professor, University of Vermont College of Medicine, highlighted that in recent years Vermont’s suicide death rates on average are 30% higher than the US. Dr. Delaney recommends that a suicide death review process in Vermont would assist in identifying service gaps and opportunities for improvement, identify and track trends in suicide deaths and identification of high risk populations.
Oregon and Massachusetts have standing suicide data committees. Such groups can play an important role in improving existing data systems identifying new data sources, responding to emerging prevention-related needs and providing information for suicide prevention education and systems change.
Accomplishments include the publication of data briefs and reports, including data about veterans and suicide risk, suicide deaths in relation to public mental health services, trends in lethal means used for suicide, and suicide morbidity and mortality. The group has also coordinated and consulted with partners on several efforts such as the Child Safety Suicide and Self-Harm Quality Improvement project aimed at improving suicide information collection in Emergency Departments, the Vermont Gun Shop Project and the development of funding applications to US SAMHSA.
The rate of suicide in Vermont exceeds the national average, with the most recent calculations placing the national rate at 13.8, and Vermont’s rate at 16.5, individuals per 100,000 people. 103 Vermonters died by suicide in 2015. This is higher than the combined number of deaths from motor vehicle accidents, fires, drownings, and homicides in Vermont.
VT Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobielle addressed Legislators and VT Suicide Prevention Coalition members remarking that Vermont is ranked high in the nation as a healthy state but in regards to suicide deaths we have too many. Gobeille said, “Suicide Prevention efforts need to be a priority and we need to do more.” VT Department of Mental Health Commissioner Melissa Bailey discussed many of the efforts and accomplishments of DMH, the VTSPC, and the VT Suicide Prevention Coalition including three Zero Suicide pilot sites, the Gun Shop Project, Survivors of Suicide Resource Packet, and the VT Crisis Text Line to name a few. All of the 2016 accomplishments are detailed in the VTSPC impact report.