Mental health advocates work to lower suicide deaths to zero

Posted at 8:32 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 23:22:14-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and several organizations are providing resources for those who need help.

One of those advocates is Mental Health America of the Mid-South. The organization is on a mission to bring the number of suicide deaths to zero.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Chance Littrell, with Mental Health America of the Mid-South, says he and others are on a mission to bring the number of suicide deaths down.

"Ultimately what we're striving for is to reduce the number of suicides to zero," said Littrell.

Littrell directs the organization's Zero Suicide initiative. He says the goal is in the name.

"Which I know seems largely aspirational, but then the question becomes what's an appropriate number of suicides. Zero has to be the target that we're shooting for," Littrell said.

In 2019, suicide deaths were the leading cause of violent deaths in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Health recorded more than 1,220 deaths. Nationwide, we lost more than 47,500 people to suicide.

"If you bring that down like it, it almost becomes more impactful because that works out to be 130 suicide deaths per day or one every 11 minutes," Littrell said.

Mental Health America created the Zero Suicide Initiative in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that through that isolation, it's been really difficult for a lot of people. So from our perspective, you know, the more people that we can train the more people that we can educate and just increase awareness with regards to suicide prevention," Littrell said.

Littrell says they partner with medical groups, the criminal justice system and other organizations to provide people with the education and training tools they need to combat the issue.

"One thing that I think is really interesting is there seems to be this common misconception that you have to be a mental health professional in order to intervene and help prevent suicide," said Littrell.

If you think someone you know is contemplating suicide, Mental Health of Americahas some tips.

You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Another resource is Lifeline Chat, a service of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, connecting individuals with counselors for emotional support and other services via web chat. All chat centers in the Lifeline network are accredited by CONTACT USA. Lifeline Chat is available 24/7 across the U.S.