September is Suicide Awareness Month

Sunday, September 07, 2008 | 07:00pm

In Tennessee, an estimated 750 men, women, and children die by suicide each year—more than the number who die from homicide, AIDS, or drunk driving. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (TDMHDD), along with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, is working to increase suicide prevention awareness during September, National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.


Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 15-24 in Tennessee and throughout the entire nation. The rate of suicide in Tennessee is 13.4 per 100,000 individuals, higher than the national average of 10.8 per 100,000 individuals. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s suicide rate ranks 19th in the nation.

As a result of these negative statistics, Tennessee has become a national leader in suicide prevention. The state increases awareness in schools by providing school based curriculums through the Jason Foundation. Tennessee is also one of the state recipients for a federal youth suicide prevention initiative entitled Tennessee Lives Count which provides Gate Keeper Training to 14,000 adults who work with high risk youth. These individuals are trained to recognize depression, as well as signs and symptoms of suicide. In 2000, Tennessee implemented The National Strategies for Suicide Prevention which brought about the coordination of eight regional groups that meet throughout the state on this issue.

“In 90 percent of instances, suicide is the result of unrecognized, untreated, or poorly treated mental illness and can be said to be the terminal outcome of mental illness,” stated Tennessee Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Virginia Trotter Betts. “Suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths worldwide, above homicide and death due to natural disasters. Suicide can be prevented, but Tennesseans need to keep educating themselves about mental health and mental illness in order to seek needed help for themselves or their loved ones.”

Scott Ridgway, Executive Director of the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, echoes her concerns. “We need to help these individuals get through their times of need and to let them know that people do care about their situation. We need to be proactive, not reactive,” he said.

Suicide does not discriminate by gender, economic status, race, or ethnicity. More suicides occur among the workforce than any other demographic, and the majority of those who die by suicide have seen their primary care doctor in the month prior to their death. Overall, one out of every twelve Tennesseans has been affected by suicide in the last five years.

A series of important activities, intended to promote suicide prevention and connect individuals and communities with the proper information and resources, will be held throughout September all across the state. Please join the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network and TDMHDD on Wednesday, September 13, 2006 for the presentation of the Governor’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month proclamation in a ceremony to be held in the Old Supreme Court Chambers at the State Capitol from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Commissioner Betts will address the audience regarding the importance of identifying and treating mental illness before it leads to pain and thoughts of suicide.

Please visit for information on suicide and suicide prevention. For additional resources and mental health information, please contact TDMHDD’s Office of Public Information and Education at (615) 253-4812 or visit

Press Releases | Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services