By: Guest Opinion
Each September during #SuicidePreventionAwarenessMonth, I reflect on the progress Arizona has made in addressing a critical public health issue. On average, 1,400 Arizonans die by #suicide each year, a number that has wide-reaching consequences for families and our larger communities.
These deaths are preventable. I’m heartened, however, by new momentum, energy, and funding that Arizona has to address this public health issue.
In August, the Arizona #HealthCare Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid agency, received an $800,000 Substance Abuse #MentalHealth Services Administration emergency #suicideprevention grant to bring together #behavioralhealth and #domesticviolence providers in Pima County.
With this funding, #domesticviolence providers will be able to screen for #suicidalideation, and #behavioralhealthproviders will be able to screen for indications of #domesticviolence.
This coordinated approach recognizes that there is often more than one social determinant of health at play – individuals who are survivors of #domesticviolence may also be fighting #depression, substance use, and suicidal thoughts.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
With the Arizona Department of Education, the AHCCCS #suicideprevention team oversees the 5-year Project AWARE grant to bring #suicideprevention and #behavioralhealth resources to #schools, particularly useful this school year as public and charter #schools implement the Mitch Warnock Act. Effective this fall, that law requires all #school staff who work with #students between 6th and 12th grades to be trained in an evidence-based #suicideprevention training. The AHCCCS team has published a list of approved training courses on their website, and works with #schools to implement and track the new training requirement.
As your #children head back to school, whether online or in person, ask about partnerships with #behavioralhealthproviders. We have seen a remarkable increase in Medicaid-eligible #students receiving services on campus (more than 15,000 #students in the last school year, statewide) and hope to continue to see these partnerships grow. Serving #students where they are has been proven to reduce barriers to accessing #behavioralhealthcare.
How is your student’s school implementing the new law? Do they have a #behavioralhealthprovider available to #students? Do they have a #suicideprevention or postvention policy listed on their website? School leadership should be able to answer these questions.
#Suicideprevention cannot be accomplished by one team or one state agency. It is up to all of us to know the warning signs and what to do next. Check on your neighbor or family member who lives alone. Get rid of unnecessary prescriptions or over-the-counter medications. Store firearms under lock so they cannot be used without your permission. Get trained in #suicideprevention. And if you are worried about someone who is suicidal, never leave them alone. Call the #NationalSuicidePreventionLifeline at 800-273-8255 and you will be transferred to a local #behavioralhealthprovider. Store this number in your phone. You’ll never know when you may be in a position to save a life.
Together, we can reduce – even end – #suicide in Arizona!
Kelli Donley Williams is the state #suicideprevention specialist at Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.