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The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has been awarded nearly $5 million in federal grant funds to reduce suicide rates in the state. The department will use the funds to collaborate with mental health practitioners and behavioral health service providers across the state to address this public health issue. Only Tennessee, New York, New Mexico and Oklahoma received federal grants directed toward adult suicide prevention.

The suicide rate in Tennessee is consistently higher than the national average. Deaths by suicide are nearly equal to the number of deaths by motor vehicle accidents. It is the third leading cause of death for young people in the state, and incidence is growing among middle-aged and older adults as well. Between 2008 and 2012, two-thirds of all suicide deaths in Tennessee were firearm-related. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) initiated a gun safety project last year in an effort to prevent further deaths. Materials, including guidelines for avoiding selling or renting firearms to individuals at risk, were distributed to firearms retailers and firing ranges across the state.

While the suicide rate varies by county, there is a correlation between the availability of mental health services and an increase in suicide deaths. According to TSPN, perceived stigma is also a barrier for individuals who might otherwise seek treatment for mental health issues. In counties with elevated suicide rates, TSPN assists in the establishment suicide coalitions and task forces. For more information on launching a coalition in your county, call 615-297¬1077. For those in Tennessee who feel at risk of suicide, call the 24/7 REDLINE at 800/889-9789.
Sources: The Chattanooga.com and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network