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National Suicide Prevention Week
September 14, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs

This week is Suicide Prevention Week and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General has delivered a major new report to the American people: the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (NSSP). The revised strategy emphasizes the role all Americans can play in protecting their friends, family members, and colleagues from suicide. As the Department of Justice observes National Suicide Prevention Week, we’d like to share with you the some of the ways DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs’ bureaus are integrating suicide prevention into their current initiatives.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), with its many programs in support of officer safety, offers “In Harm’s Way: Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention Program. The downloadable toolkit has vital information on topics covering the roles of employee assistance professionals, peer support, chaplaincy, psychological services, post intervention activities, family support and the needs of survivors of suicide.

Because some research has found that more women who are domestic violence victims die from suicide than die as a result of homicide, The National Institute of Justice includes a specific focus on suicide in its research grant solicitations. It encourages grantees to examine the outcomes for victims of crimes that involve ongoing and repeated assault, such as domestic violence, teen dating violence and bullying.

Many programs of The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have mental health components which integrate suicide prevention, such as the Safe Start and Defending Childhood Initiatives, which focus on protecting and healing youth exposed to violence and trauma. OJJDP also highlights suicide prevention in the Healthy Transitions Initiative, which offers housing, employment and counseling for youth who are coming out of the welfare and juvenile justice systems and adjusting to independent living. OJJDP has also held a webinar series on suicide prevention for Native Youth.

Finally, I want to tell you about a program supported by our Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) which offers dramatic evidence of suicide prevention at work. Flandreau Indian School (FIS) is an off-reservation boarding high school in South Dakota with nearly 300 American Indian and Alaskan Native students.

OVC funding supports mental health counselors at FIS to help the students develop culturally appropriate, healthy strategies to cope with lifetime and historical exposure to violence, trauma and victimization. At one weekly meeting focused on suicide, the counselors taught the teens about the signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior, gave them strategies to intervene with their peers and urged them to ask adults for help. Within days of the presentation, several students told the dorm counselors they were concerned about a fellow student. The adults found the student to be actively suicidal and were able to get him immediate and intensive help, as well as long-term mental health treatment.

The work of OJP and our public and private partners in the last 10 years has been based on research evidence that we can prevent suicide. Now we must rededicate ourselves to reducing the stigma and silence that still surround it and to raising awareness among the scientific community and the general population that suicide is preventable.

If you or someone you know needs help please call these hotlines: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433); 1-888-SUICIDE (1-888-784-2433); or 1-877-SUICIDA (1-877-784-2432) (Spanish).

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