Maine's program to reduce the number of youth suicides received a federal
shot in the arm in February in the form a $300,000 three-year joint grant from
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse
and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
The grant will fund an assessment of school-based suicide-prevention
programs with and without a community-based component, according to the CDC.
The funds will also help Maine evaluate efforts to lower its youth suicide
rate, which is higher than the national average. The evaluation also will
assist state officials in deciding how best to disburse an earlier $1.2
million from SAMHSA for suicide prevention in youth.
Between 1998 and 2002, the suicide rate among Maine youth was 25 percent
above the national average, the 17th highest in the country, and the second
highest in New England, according to the CDC.
The suicide rate, state officials said, reflects in part the rural nature
of Maine. Nationally, suicide rates are approximately one-third higher in
rural areas than in core metro areas.
In small rural states like Maine where youth-suicide rates are high, most
communities feel the impact of the problem, with families, friends, and
community members confronting the trauma that follows a youth's suicide,
according to the Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program (MYSPP).
Jack Nicholas, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human
Services, said in a statement that the SAMHSA grant will allow implementation
of the state's newest suicide-prevention plan in three more Maine counties:
Knox, Piscataquis, and Sagadahoc.
"Our efforts are leading the country in reaching out to prevent teen
suicide," said Gov. John Baldacci in a statement.
Among the new goals of the MYSPP is "strengthening efforts to include
high-risk and particularly vulnerable communities and culturally sensitive
populations in planning and implementing program components," according
to the MYSPP's December 2005 report.
State officials reported that there were 805 suicides in Maine from 1999
through 2003, which included 106 suicides among youth aged 8 to 24. More
people in that age group in the state die from suicide than from homicide,
with five to six suicides among 15- to 24-year-olds for every homicide.
Nationally, the rate of suicide among youth has declined slowly since 1992.
Federal officials said, however, that few schools and communities have
suicide-prevention plans that include screening, referral, and
crisis-intervention programs for youth, despite the fact that suicide is the
third leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24. In 2001, 3,971
suicides were reported in this group nationwide.
Also selected to receive $100,000 grants to implement suicide-prevention
programs and conduct evaluations for three years were the Tennessee Department
of Mental Health and the Native American Rehabilitation Association of Oregon.
The programs were chosen from 11 applicants because federal officials"
believed these three had the most potential to add to what we know
works in youth suicide, especially on the community level," Keri Lubell,
Ph.D., a CDC behavioral scientist, told Psychiatric News.
The most recent report of the MYSPP is posted at<www.state.me.us/suicide/prreport106.htm>.▪