DMH Receives Five Year Youth Suicide Prevention Grant

July 26, 2019 (Jackson, Miss.) – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded the Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant, a five-year collaboration between DMH, Mississippi State University and Region 8 Mental Health Services.

The Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant (MS GLS19) is aimed at reducing youth suicides by providing expanded suicide awareness and gatekeeper training for families, schools, communities and youth-serving organizations statewide. The grant will also work at improving identification and clinical services for at-risk youth and developing rapid response services to help families and communities recover after a suicide has occurred.

Youth suicide is a significant and growing issue in Mississippi. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 516 youth suicides in Mississippi in the past decade, with the rate increasing in recent years.  The number of deaths by suicide in 2017 were more than 30% higher compared to just five years ago, and the average over the past three years (63) is more than 20% higher than the 10-year average.

“This grant gives us the opportunity to look at youth suicides across a full spectrum, from training people to identify and refer youth who are at risk, to providing the services needed to help them,” said Molly Portera, DMH Director of the Division of Outreach and Training. “Appropriate care after a suicide is often a missing link for many families and communities who are tragically affected.”

Mississippi State University (MSU) will work with DMH and Region 8 to achieve the goals of the MS GLS19 project, which include:

  • Providing gatekeeper training to at least 5,000 educators, childcare professionals, community care providers, and individuals in foster care and juvenile justice agencies statewide annually in order to increase the number of youth-serving organizations that can identify and refer youth at risk of suicide;
  • Increasing the capacity of clinical service providers to assess, manage, and treat youth at risk of suicide by referring at-risk youth for mental health care services within 24 hours of suicide screening completion;
  • Providing statewide postvention training to at least 1,000 family members, friends, educational institutions, juvenile justice systems, substance use disorder programs, mental health programs, foster care systems, and other child and youth support organizations annually in order to improve the continuity of care and follow-up of youth identified to be at risk for suicide, including those who have been discharged from emergency department and inpatient psychiatric units; and
  • Providing postvention support services for families statewide within 24-hours of notice of a suicide death or attempt.

The project will build upon and integrate initiatives developed by DMH and MSU under previous Garrett Lee Smith grant-funded projects, including DMH’s Shatter the Silence suicide prevention campaign and MSU’s The Alliance Project gatekeeper training. The project will serve an estimated 6,000 people annually with suicide awareness and prevention, gatekeeper and postvention trainings to families, schools, communities and youth-serving organizations.

Region 8, which serves five counties, is the highest-populated Community Mental Health Center service area in Mississippi. Two counties in Region 8’s catchment area, Madison and Rankin, accounted for a total of 37, or 13%, of the state’s previous five-year suicide deaths for individuals under the age of 25.

Region 8 expects to provide continued mental health services to approximately 2,130 students over five years within its catchment area through employment of school-based therapists who will conduct suicide and mental health screenings and make appropriate referrals to treatment services.  The grant activities will serve an estimated 32,130 Mississippians in some capacity over the course of five years.

“The ability to provide this postvention training and support can work to deter future suicide contagion and start the healing process,” Portera said. “Our hope is to reduce the youth suicide rate in Mississippi by making more people aware of how to identify youth who are struggling with suicidal ideation and get them the help they need.”