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Suicide Prevention Month: TN report recommends increasing mental health care access across state

According to the report, 1,219 Tennesseans died by suicide in 2021 — almost exactly as many that died the year before.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Every year, millions of Americans seriously think about suicide. In 2021, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people between 10 - 14 years old, and 20-34 years old.

"To fully understand the impact of suicide in Tennessee and improve prevention efforts, we must continually review suicide-related data to identify the groups of people most at risk for suicide," said a state report analyzing suicide trends.

In Tennessee, 1,219 people died by suicide in 2021. The state report showed the suicide rate among men was around 28.7 deaths per 100,000 people — around four times the rate among women. The report also showed guns far exceeded other methods of suicide.

It said there were 6,753 emergency department visits in 2020 due to self-harm injuries and 2,259 hospitalizations.

It also showed the rate of suicide in Tennessee was around 25% higher than the national rate.

"Across the US, there is a higher rate of suicide among men, non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Alaska Native/American Indians, residents of rural areas, young people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and veterans/other military personnel," it also said.

The report recommended increasing access to adequate mental health care for Tennesseans and said the state should encourage help-seeking behavior. It also supported the widespread use of standardized behavioral health assessment protocols and tools.

Crisis response infrastructure should also be improved in Tennessee, the report said. It said hospital systems should maintain "suicide-safe" facilities and healthcare providers should encourage primary care and pediatric providers to utilize screening tools for the risk of suicide.

It also recommended reducing access to "lethal means" within homes by safely storing guns and prescription medications.

Nobody should seriously consider suicide. Anyone who has thoughts about self-harm or ending their life needs to reach out for help. A list of resources is available here.

People can also call or text 988 to connect with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Through the lifeline, people can connect with someone who wants to discuss whatever could be on a caller's mind.

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