Over the past five years, more than 3,000 Marylanders died by suicide. In an effort to save lives, the Maryland Department of Health launched an awareness initiative Monday.
The Office of Suicide Prevention within the Maryland Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration effort includes the release of “Connecting to Hope,” a suicide prevention awareness “toolkit.”
The effort comes in the early days of National Suicide Prevention Week, which began Sunday, and September is National Suicide Prevention Month. During this month, the Maryland Behavioral Health Administration is urging Marylanders to get informed on the warning signs of suicide and share resources such as the Connecting to Hope Toolkit to better inform others.
“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,” Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Behavioral Health Alyssa Lord said in a written statement.
According to data from KFF, a health policy researcher, an average of 9.7 out of every 100,000 Marylanders died by suicide between 2011 and 2021. By comparison, the United States had an average suicide rate of 14.1 out of 100,000 people during that same time span.
An average of 634 Marylanders died by suicide annually between 2017 through 2021, according to the informational toolkit, based on an analysis of data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
The informational booklet provides some troubling statistics on how suicide impacts certain communities.
Nationally, men aged 75 years or older have the highest rates of suicide compared to other age groups, according the report based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, about 17% of LGBTQ+ youth aged 13-17 reported to have attempted suicide in 2022, according to survey results from the Trevor Project.
The toolkit is just one component of a broad statewide effort to honor those lost to suicide and to provide informational resources for those who are struggling with mental health concerns.
Throughout September, communities around Maryland will participate in “Out of the Darkness” community walks that aim to bring people who have struggled with suicide or have lost someone to suicide together and offer community support.
The Department of Health will also hold called the “Together We Care” summit to discuss suicide prevention and best practices to reduce the rate of suicide at the end of the month, among other events aimed to raise awareness of the issue.
The “Connecting to Hope” toolkit offers a variety of tips and best practices when it comes to helping people who struggle with mental health and suicide ideation. It also provides social media informational graphics to push the Connect to Hope campaign online.
The informational toolkit advises loved ones to look out for certain changed behavior that could be signs of suicide ideation or intentionality — such as increased alcohol or drug use, losing interest in activities and behaving recklessly or irrationally.
The Department’s informational booklet also includes tips for how to talk a person who may be struggling with mental health and contemplation of suicide. The toolkit urges use of direct language such as “Are you considering suicide?,” as opposed using round-about language, in order to start potentially life-saving conversations.
The toolkit also points to various resources that people who are struggling can reach out to themselves, such as the national 9-8-8 crisis line that can help people get connected to the support and resources. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that the 9-8-8 crisis line now has American Sign Language services to provide better accessibility for deaf and hard of hearing callers.