Yates suicide prevention coalition organizing

Gwen Chamberlain The Chronicle-Express

Suicides and suicide attempts are typically discussed in hushed voices with coded comments suggesting the complicated, painful, and prolonged progression toward the final act. True research and data collection about suicide is a fairly new concept, and the taking of one’s life has only been a viewed as a public health priority for about 10 years.

A group of professionals from Yates County, area school districts, and other organizations met earlier this month to discuss the possibility of forming a Suicide Prevention Coalition in Yates County.

Suicide is at a 30-year high in New York State, and Yates County’s statistics mirror or overshadow statewide figures.

According to the New York State Vital Statistics website, 2012 was the first year since 2004 that Yates County’s three-year suicide rate dropped below the three-year rate for New York State excluding New York City.

In only three years between 2004 and 2012 was Yates County’s suicide rate lower than the corresponding rate for the state excluding New York City.

Yates County’s suicide rate per 100,000 people was 13.0 in 2010 (New York State excluding NYC was 9.1); 11.1 in 2011 (NYS, 9.8) and 8.2 in 2012 (NYS, 9.7).

Suicide rates could be higher across the board since statistics are taken from death certificates, and in some cases the cause of death as listed does not specify suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States, says Pat Breux, a Suicide Prevention Specialist/Community Organizer who met with the group organized by George Roets, Director of Yates County Community Services.

The Suicide Prevention Center of New York is operated by the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene with funding from the state Office of Mental Health.

The Yates County department has secured a $2,500 grant to start the process of determining the need for a county-based coalition.

“We would love to see this problem completely eliminated, but it takes everyone being involved,” said Roets.

Breux said it wasn’t until the late 1990s that the World Health Organization recognized suicide was a public health issue. “In the past it was looked at as the result of poorly treated mental illness.”

A new statewide plan will be unveiled within a month or so, says Breux. That plan will likely include enhanced clinical care, mental health facilities and primary care providers. Breux says data shows that about 60 percent of those who carry out suicide had seen a primary care provider of some capacity within the 30 days before their death, and 75 to 80 percent had some kind of medical care within those 30 days. There may or may not be some kind of connection there, says Breux, but the contact with a trained professional could provide an opportunity for intervention that hasn’t been recognized in the past.

Breux says the Suicide Prevention Center will be developing online resources for communities, holding regional meetings, providing resources and training schools, consultations, and partnerships.

Community coalitions already exist in many counties in New York, including Steuben, Schuyler, and Livingston counties.

Roets says the group that met in early July plans to establish a formal coalition. They plan to meet again in September to begin work on establishing a mission, vision, bylaws, and officers.

Roets says “A coalition can educate. It’s all about what’s important to the American people, so we hope this becomes more important.”

For more information about the local coalition efforts, contact Roets at 315-536-5115.

For more information about the Suicide Prevention Center visit www. PreventSuicideNY.org.