State takes action to prevent suicide

Washington’s suicide rate has for years been higher than the national average. From 2010 to 2014, more than 5,000 Washington residents took their own lives.

State officials are now taking action to try to bring those numbers down and prevent suicide.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee issued an executive order outlining strategies to reduce and prevent firearms fatalities; suicides account for nearly 80 percent of all firearm deaths in the state.

Among the strategies state officials are deploying is a new Suicide Prevention Plan, drafted by the state Department of Health.

“We can stop these tragic deaths, but it’ll take coordination and cooperation,” said state Secretary of Health John Wiesman in a news release. “We know there are ways we can make a difference and this plan maps out strategies to save lives in our state.”

The plan outlines several core principles:

-Suicide is a preventable public health problem and not a personal weakness or family failure. Everyone has a role in suicide prevention.

-Silence and stigma create harm by isolating people at risk and discouraging help-seeking.

-Suicide prevention requires changing contributing factors, such as childhood trauma, isolation, access to lethal means and lack of access to behavioral health care.

-Suicide doesn’t affect all communities equally, so prevention programs need to address local needs and cultures.

-People experiencing issues associated with suicide deserve dignity, respect and the right to make decisions about their care.

The state has already taken action to prevent suicides with a network of coalitions, student-led clubs, support groups, behavioral health treatment, culturally tailored initiatives, trainers and community leaders and has “groundbreaking suicide prevention training requirements for health professionals,” according to the health department.

The new plan will build on those accomplishments. The purpose of the plan is to use data and community input to customize short- and long-term prevention and intervention tactics to best serve specific populations.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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