On October 19, 2022

Vermont launches initiative to reduce rising number of suicides

Suicides in Vermont are at a 25-year high, and state health officials have issued a call to action for Vermonters to be partners in bending this curve. To help make this happen, the Vermont Dept. of Health and Dept. of Mental Health have launched Facing Suicide VT, a statewide prevention effort funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facing Suicide VT provides access to suicide prevention education, support, and advocacy resources.

This initiative features a comprehensive website, FacingSuicideVT.com. The site provides information and resources about how to get help for people struggling or in crisis. The website also features information about how to give help – including tips for having conversations about suicide. People can also see stories of hope and recovery from Vermonters who have personal experience with suicide and mental health challenges.

Suicide can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Vermont, and the second leading cause of death among people in Vermont ages 15 to 34. In 2021, there were 142 suicide deaths among Vermont residents, the highest number and rate of suicide deaths recorded in the state.

“Suicide is a significant and complex public health concern that impacts every community in Vermont and across the nation,” said Nick Nichols, coordinator of the health department’s Suicide Prevention Program. “Covid-19 exacerbated the risk factors for many Vermonters, including isolation, financial and job insecurities, illness, and difficulties accessing services during the peak of the pandemic. Our work is focused on making sure suicide prevention happens at multiple levels — individual, interpersonal, community and societal. We all play an important role in reducing the risk of suicide for fellow Vermonters,” Nichols said.

FacingSuicideVT.com also features resources specific for Vermonters at higher risk of suicide — including people who are LGBTQ+, Vermonters with a disability, those who live in rural areas, males, first responders, service members and veterans.

Higher risk also includes ready access to firearms by people in crisis. In Vermont, most deaths involving firearms are due to suicide. A suicide attempt with a firearm is more likely to be fatal than most other means.

Understanding the warning signs and putting space between a gun and a person having thoughts of suicide or harming themselves is essential. Facing Suicide VT offers resources that explain the importance of safely storing firearms and ammunition.

Dept. of Mental Health Deputy Commissioner Alison Krompf said Facing Suicide VT provides both lived experience and professional perspectives on how to support individuals and their loved ones when someone is experiencing mental health challenges.

“Having these resources in one, easily accessible place can encourage conversations about suicide,” said Krompf. “This leads to reducing the stigma associated with mental health concerns, and most importantly, can help save lives.”

“By learning to recognize warning signs in others, making the connections and having meaningful conversations with the people we care about in times of crisis, we can make the single most important difference in someone’s life,” said Nichols.

Learn more about the Facing Suicide VT initiative and how to get involved at FacingSuicideVT.com. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline  or text VT to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line. Trained counselors are available 24/7. If you are concerned about your or a loved one’s safety or need emergency medical services, call 9-1-1.

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