Iowa’s teen suicide rate is higher than the national average and the state’s landed a federal grant to boost suicide prevention efforts.
Binnie LeHew, chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Disabilities and Violence Prevention, says the $1.2 million grant over three years will create the Youth Suicide Prevention/Early Intervention Project. "This project will allow us to focus on youth in the age range of 15 to 19 years," she says. "It will allow us to fund three to four either area education agencies or high schools across the state who can identify those youth at risk for suicide mainly by screening for depression."
A survey of Iowa sixth, eighth and eleventh graders found 11 percent had made one or more suicide attempts while another 10 percent said they’d planned a way to kill themselves.
She says Iowa’s youth have a higher risk for suicide and several factors may contribute to that. "Typically, the rates are higher in rural areas and we believe that’s because there’s more isolation in rural areas," LeHew says. "There’s less accessibility to services, in terms of mental health services, and there’s greater access to firearms, which is one of the means of cause of death."
LeHew says suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Iowa youth between age ten and 24. Accidental or unintentional injury is number-one.
LeHew says the new project includes a public awareness campaign to promote project participation. They’ll be trying to identify youth who show signs of depression, a risk factor for suicide. Teens who fall into that category will be referred for more assessment and possible treatment. She says part of the solution is better education about suicide risk factors, including depression and drug abuse.
The toll-free suicide prevention hotline is 800-273-TALK.