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Suicide Prevention a Matter of Public Health in Michigan

It is World Suicide Prevention Day, aimed at removing the stigma and building understanding. Credit: Darnok/Morguefile
It is World Suicide Prevention Day, aimed at removing the stigma and building understanding.
Credit: Darnok/Morguefile
September 10, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Suicide often is viewed as a private, personal matter, but some mental health professionals say addressing it as a public health issue could save lives.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Maxine Thome, executive director, National Association of Social Workers in Michigan, says suicide can stem from untreated mental illness or addiction, and the pain a person feels can be all-consuming.

She contends its underlying causes need to be brought into the light.

"There's so much stigma attached to substance use and mental illness that people tend to dance away from it rather than move towards it," says Thome. "We need to understand suicide better in our neighborhoods and our communities."

While greater awareness is critical, Thome also notes psychotherapy and counseling should be more readily available to people, regardless of income.

Thome explains insurance typically does not provide adequate coverage to treat addiction and/or mental illness. She adds that the community health system is so strapped with Medicaid and cuts to the general fund that those living in or near poverty can't get help.

"Whatever the reason is for someone feeling suicidal, the bottom line is a lot of work needs to be done here in Michigan in beefing up the safety net, the substance-use services, the mental-health services," she says.

At the same time, Thome says, the research and data collection on suicide should be shared publicly, so its causes can be better understood and those experiencing troubles can be connected to the help they need.

"It is up to families, friends, professionals to help someone navigate a very difficult system," says Thome. "Social workers are available in many areas throughout the state and know how to access care."

The latest state data shows in 2013, nearly 1,300 people died by suicide in Michigan.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI