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Proclamation in Exeter Sununu: Suicide is 'preventable' Governor addresses mental health crisis Governor addresses mental health crisis

Portsmouth Herald - 9/22/2017

EXETER - Surrounded by the state's leaders on the issue, Gov. Chris Sununu proclaimed New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Week at Exeter HospitalFriday, Sept. 16.

Coinciding with National Suicide Prevention Week, the state's proclamation marks Sept. 10-16, 2017, as a time to "recognize suicide as a national and statewide public health problem."

While he spoke of resources and partnerships formed in response to New Hampshire's mental health crisis, Sununu's message was simple. "It is preventable," he said. "It is all preventable when we put our efforts to it and make sure that we're there."

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people in New Hampshire and eighth overall.

"The mental health crisis of the state is something that I've been talking about for a long time, I think a lot of people have been talking about for a long time," Sununu said. "We've made some great strides this year with Senate Bill 400 that put some resources where they really needed to go: community groups, community supports, looking at more beds for our mental health facilities. But to be honest, it's just scratching the surface. There is so much more that we can and need to do."

Sununu said the state needs to focus on the "wraparound services" for people struggling with mental health issues require, such as transitional housing, accessible clinicians and nurses and additional psychiatric beds.

Sununu read the official state proclamation, noting "one person dies by suicide every 36 hours in New Hampshire." Every 12.3 minutes, someone dies by suicide in the United States, resulting in 43,000 suicides a year. Suicide, Sununu said, is the only leading cause of death that has increased every year in the past decade.

"Over 90 percent of the people who die by suicide have a diagnose-able and treatable mental health condition," he said.

As Sununu read the proclamation, he stood next to a quilt featuring faces of loved ones lost to suicide. "Faces of suicide" was stitched on the quilt.

Claire Tenny, chief of the mental health service line for Manchester Veteran Affairs, said U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin has named eliminating veteran suicide as the top clinical priority for the VA. The Manchester VA, she said, recently added a second suicide prevention coordinator. Twenty veterans die by suicide each day.

"We need to reach those veterans we are not connecting with," Tenny said. "We need to do better with the ones we care for, but even more so if we want to make an impact, we need to work with all of you to reach the people who need to get the help."

Daniel Potenza of the state Department of Corrections is chairman of the state Suicide Prevention Council, signed into law in 2008.

"New Hampshire is a very special place," he said. "We all know it. Everyone in this room knows it. We all know each other, and if we don't, we should. We should really understand each other, especially on this issue."

Exeter Hospital Director of Community Relations Debra Vasapolli called Tara Ball of Connor's Climb "an enormous force" in the fight to reduce stigmas around mental health and suicide. Ball lost her 14-year-old son, Connor, an Exeter High School freshman, to suicide in 2011.

"We had a proclamation last year, to have it from a different governor and a different party this year, it shows how bipartisan this issue is," Ball said. "It's nice to hear the governor read it."

Ball, of Brentwood, encouraged those looking to make a difference to speak up about mental health and initiate a conversation. "If you see someone that isn't looking good, ask if they're OK," she said. "A lot of times someone just needs to be asked."

New Heights, Chase Home and Seacoast Outright were awarded a $50,000 grant earlier this year from Exeter Hospital to address the issue of teen suicide on the Seacoast. The initial collaborative group of nonprofits, formally known as the Seacoast Youth Suicide Prevention Network, will hold a summit that brings together more than a dozen community stakeholders to discuss next steps. The Teen Suicide Summit will take place Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 10 a.m. at Chase Home in Portsmouth.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or are experiencing difficulty or suicidal thoughts, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).

 
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