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I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
A comprehensive plan to reduce the number and impact of suicides in the U.S. recently was announced by the U.S. Surgeon General.
The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention plan updates the Surgeon General’s 2001 initiative, provides some new research-derived strategies, and adds some sobering data about the extent of suicide in the U.S.
Currently, the Surgeon General reports about 33,000 Americans take their own life annually, which is more than one person every 15 minutes. Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. To provide a contrast, more than twice as many Americans now die from suicide than are killed by homicides each year.
The day after the report’s release Regina Benjamin M.D., the U.S. Surgeon General, told NLM’s Board of Regents her office’s new efforts are intended to offset what she terms an alarming number of suicides. Dr. Benjamin told NLM’s Board of Regents about 100 suicides now occur in the U.S. every day; new research suggests about 16 percent of high school students contemplate suicide.
Dr. Benjamin told NLM’s Board of Regents (and we quote): ‘no one is immune from suicide’ (end of quote) because it impacts the friends, family members, and colleagues of the person who takes his or her life.
The Surgeon General’s new strategies include preventive suicide efforts targeted for at risk groups, such as military veterans, teens, and seniors. The preventive efforts for teens and veterans include new social media initiatives to help users recognize some of suicide’s possible symptoms, such as talking about wanting to die.
The Surgeon General’s office recently began an initiative with Facebook so users can alert the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to contact a Facebook friend who may be showing suicide predispositions.
The Surgeon General told NLM’s Board of Regents she hopes more use of social media also will increase the utilization of special counseling for military veterans within the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free phone-based intervention service and is available 24 hours a day at 800 273-8255. There also is a link to the ‘Lifeline’ within the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page.
The Surgeon General’s report notes new research suggests suicide prevention services, such as crisis lines and behavioral therapy, can be therapeutic. Recent research additionally suggests a prompt follow up boosts preventive efforts if a person is treated for suicide in a hospital or clinic.
Besides new public service announcements to enhance the awareness of suicide, the Surgeon General’s office will set aside about $55 million to assist state, community, and tribal suicide prevention initiatives. Some of these funds may be used to increase research about suicide tendencies among specific demographic groups, such as seniors with a chronic illness. The Surgeon General’s office notes recent research suggests a better understanding of shared life and health concerns helps health care providers develop more sophisticated and successful suicide prevention strategies.
The Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention is available at surgeongeneral.gov.
Meanwhile, a helpful introduction to suicide symptoms is provided by the American Society of Suicidology in the ‘overviews’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page. A helpful guide about what to do if someone is suicidal is provided by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education in the ‘prevention/screening’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education also provides a helpful website, ‘Considering suicide? How to Stay Safe and Find Treatment’ in the ‘coping’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the suicide health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.
To find MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page, type ‘suicide’ in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov’s home page, then, click on ‘Suicide (National Library of Medicine).’ Links to health topic pages devoted to depression, mental health and behavior, as well as social/family issues are accessible within ‘related topics’ on the right side of MedlinePlus.gov’s suicide health topic page.
As the Surgeon General’s report notes, improving prevention to offset a sobering rate of suicide is gaining new momentum in medicine and public health. We wish the Surgeon General’s National Strategy for Suicide Prevention every success.
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