BALTIMORE, MD – In a step towards addressing the public health crisis of suicide, the Maryland Department of Health has rolled out a slate of new initiatives, including a summit and toolkit. These actions are part of the department’s focus on National Suicide Prevention Month.
“Suicide has a devastating impact on families and communities,” said Alyssa Lord, Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health. “Our goal with these initiatives is to begin to address the gaps and disparities in accessing essential resources and services that could help to save lives.”
Suicide rates have been a growing concern nationwide, as it is the 12th leading cause of death. This issue has notably increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the older population (85+) sees the highest rates of suicide. Moreover, suicide was the 13th leading cause of death among veterans and the second leading cause of death for youth between 10 and 14 in 2020.
The Behavioral Health Administration is organizing a day-long, in-person event called the “Together We Care” Summit for September 28. The summit aims to foster discussions around suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies and share best practices and resources. The event aims to unite diverse stakeholders, such as survivors, community members, educators, and healthcare providers, who are committed to enhancing education on suicide risk factors and appropriate responses.
Scheduled to occur at Martin’s Crosswinds in Prince George’s County, the summit is expected to attract representatives from all 24 Maryland jurisdictions, suicide prevention coalitions, veterans affairs partners, and the Maryland National Guard.
Additionally, the Office of Suicide Prevention has launched the 2023 Suicide Prevention Month Toolkit: Connecting to Hope. This toolkit consists of a calendar of events, key data, warning signs, and information on safe communication, safety planning, and firearms safety. Last year, the office provided 11 trainings to over 1,200 individuals. Training for the general public will be expanded during this awareness month, including programs like Mental Health First Aid and collaborations with The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project has also been highlighted in the newly announced “Caring Out Loud” campaign, aimed at spotlighting mental health and suicide prevention efforts among marginalized communities such as Black youth, LGBTQ+ youth, Native American populations, and athletes. This campaign is being executed in partnership with grassroots organizations serving these communities.
A separate toolkit focused on Maryland K-12 schools, offering suicide prevention guidance to teachers, administrators, parents, and students, is also under development and expected to be released later this fall.
On October 4, the Behavioral Health Administration will host its Annual Suicide Prevention Conference, a virtual event offering 5.75 continuing education units, featuring keynote speaker Richard G. Tedeschi, Ph.D.
For more information, visit health.maryland.gov/bha.