A Statement by St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis:
In the past five years, suicide has risen over 30% in our parish. Attempted suicides have risen over 300%. The Center for Disease Control labels suicides and suicide attempts as self-directed violence. This violence impacts families and neighbors and leaves a permanent mark on our community.
If this were a different type of violence, for instance a mugging or other type of assault, we would be quick to recognize this as a problem that we must address as a community.
But we, as a society, tend to treat self-directed violence differently because of the belief that the perpetrator and the victim are one and the same. In truth, there are many more victims.
We don’t talk about suicidal feelings or suicide attempts. They are often seen as private matters not to be openly discussed. The idea that suicide involves only a single person must be replaced with the knowledge that violence in any form hurts each and every member of a family and of a community.
We need to make a change.
When thoughts, words or actions lead us to believe that a person is suicidal, we need to act quickly. We need to connect that person, and his or her family, to the resources in our community that can help them work out the issues that cause suicide attempts.
With that purpose in mind, St. Tammany Parish has partnered with the medical community and law enforcement to create and fund Crisis Response Teams.
Upon a request from law enforcement, crisis response counselors will deploy to the scene of the crisis, do an on-site assessment of the individuals in crisis and make a recommendation about treatment. Counselors will be available to provide support and referrals for family members, which will ease the burden on first responders and help these responders get back in the field.
Mental health professionals will assist someone in crisis and his/her family by providing intervention, information, counseling, support and referrals to facilitate recovery. In addition, counselors will follow-up with the family and provide after-care services, as needed. This approach will ensure that individuals and families get all services needed to address the immediate crisis and strengthen protective factors. This will lead to stabilization of the individual and the family.
About the program:
United Way is working with St. Tammany Parish government officials, 2-1-1 and 20 other social service agencies to address the rising number of suicides in the parish. The new program aims to help people cope with problems that may cause depression and undue stress in their lives.
In the past for an emergency, a person would call 9-1-1. The first responders, whether they were medical personnel or law enforcement, would evaluate the situation to determine what actions needed to be taken. With the new system, crisis response counselors, when requested by law enforcement, will also go to the scene of a 9-1-1 crisis, do an on-site evaluation and assessment of the individuals in crisis, and make a recommendation about treatment. Counselors will provide support and referrals for family members, easing the burden on first responders.
“We believe in local solutions for local problems, helping people feel empowered to act. We will help bring the issue to the forefront,” said Michael Williamson, COO of United Way for the Greater New Orleans. The agency has dedicated its resources to helping solve the problem and provide assistance.
The agencies involved in the new 2-1-1 suicide prevention response team include:
The 22nd Judicial District Court
Florida Parishes Human Services Authority
Lakeview Regional Medical Center
Louisiana Heart Hospital and Medical Center
Mental Health Association of St. Tammany/Sunshine House
National Alliance on Mental Illness, St. Tammany
Northshore Community Foundation
Ochsner Health Center
St. Tammany Community Health Center
St. Tammany East Chamber of Commerce
St. Tammany parish Communications District No. 1 (9-1-1)
St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office
St. Tammany Fire District 1
St. Tammany Parish Hospital
St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office
Slidell Memorial Hospital
St. Tammany Outreach for the Prevention of Suicide (STOPS)
United Way serving St. Tammany
Volunteers of America