Tennessee Department of Health joins CDC Suicide Prevention Program

$750,000 in grant money over five years will boost prevention efforts
Posted at 9:46 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 00:09:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Tennessee Department of Health is receiving $750,000 in funding for suicide prevention efforts over the next five years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new Comprehensive Suicide Prevention Program includes a focus on vulnerable populations at increased risk for suicide. The Tennessee Department of Health is one of only nine organizations in the U.S. chosen to receive this funding.

"This is a great opportunity to implement a public approach to suicide prevention," said Rachel Heitmann from the Division of Family Health and Wellness at the Tennessee Department of Health. "If people do need help, we want them to know that help is out there."

The funding will expand existing programs, and help implement new activities. It will help reach people in rural areas, as well as expand the number of people trained to identify and support those at risk of suicide. It will also increase students' coping and problem-solving skills.

The CDC reports suicide is a growing public health crisis that claimed more than 48,000 lives in the U.S. in 2018. In Tennessee, data from the Department of Health shows 1,220 people died by suicide in 2019, including 32 children aged 17 and under. Within the past six years, Tennessee’s overall suicide rate increased by 24 percent, from 14.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014 to 17.9 in 2019.

Officials have not seen an increase in deaths by suicide since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"What we have seen is an increase in people reaching out for help," said Heitmann. "Calls and texts to the crisis line have increased. We view that as a positive."

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network worked with the State Health Department to secure the funding. Officials there believe it will have a big impact.

"More money is more resources, and more people we can train and more literature we can print and distribute," said Morgan Tubbs, Data and Communications Director at the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.

If you need help or know someone who does, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both are free and confidential and will connect you to a trained counselor in your area.

You can also call the statewide crisis line at 1-855-274-7471 or text "TN" to 741741 to be connected to a trained counselor. More information can be found here or on the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network visit