Care Coordination at the Crisis Center
Chances are we all know of someone who has died by suicide. Perhaps, it was a loved one or a friend of a friend. But no matter how we are personally related, the aftermath is always the same. Lives are shattered and the pain and grief - for those closest - will linger for months or for years or a lifetime, amplified all too often by self-recriminations and the soul numbing search for "Why?"
The first time I came face to face with suicide was while sitting in chapel one spring morning at college. Before the service began, the Chaplin got up and told us that my political science professor had ended his life. I sat there in disbelief. Here was a man who had it all. He was highly respected in his field, well published and often traveled to Washington or overseas to consult with the State Department. Yet, the night before he had gone home and ended his life. Since then I have had too many friends and acquaintances die by suicide's hand. Each time, the
emotions are the same and I am also left wondering "Why?"
This year, an estimated 1,000,000 people will attempt suicide. Of those, close to 40,000 people, more than the total number who will die by automobile accidents, homicide or prostate cancer and about equal to the number of women who will die from breast cancer, will actually do so. Yet the money we spend as a country to combat suicide is barely a fraction of what we devote to researching and
preventing these other causes of death.
However grim, statistics cannot begin to relay the tragic aftermath or personal loss that follows when a teenager, full of life and promise, dies by his own hands. Or, an elderly woman, a mother and grandmother, ends her life. What makes suicide all the more heartbreaking is that many deaths can be avoided, not necessarily by the actions of loved ones or friends who erroneously blame themselves, but by a society committed to providing the services needed to address three of the leading risk factors for self-harm: previous suicide attempts, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse.
At the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, we offer evidence based, state of the art services to people at risk of self-injury. Our 2-1-1 Crisis Line and Suicide Prevention program operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, answering upwards to 70 calls weekly from people who are worried about harming themselves or who have already made plans to die. Our counselors stay with the caller for as long as it takes, sometimes for hours, until the person is safe. If emergency services are needed, we send those. If the caller needs to see a counselor or a psychiatrist, we make the arrangements. We also follow up, often for weeks and months until we are certain the caller is out of danger. But more is needed.
Teens attempt suicide at a higher rate than any other group. In fact, suicide is
the third leading cause of death in children under age 20. Yet, when a teen, who
is a threat to himself or others, is discharged from the hospital in Hillsborough County, there is often little or no follow-up or care coordination. Sure, a couple of referrals get made, but in the absence of an advocate or someone to help the young person make the appointment and get there, nothing happens and the child remains at risk.
At the Crisis Center, we have a solution for this problem and it's called Care Coordination, an evidenced based practice for reducing the likelihood of future suicide attempts. Our Care Coordinators painstakingly help persons at risk to build meaningful connections to others and to navigate the confusing and often inscrutable mental health system. The result - lives are saved!
How many lives have our 2-1-1 Crisis Line and Care Coordination programs actually saved? We don't know for sure. Over the past three years, our Care Coordination program has served over 1000 people. But if we only saved one person and that person was you or someone you know or love, one is all it would take to justify every dollar we've invested in these services. We would like to do more and more is needed, especially when it comes to our community's youth. Sadly, we just
don't have the money right now to expand this much needed service.
As you finish reading this article, I hope you'll take a moment to become a part of this vital and lifesaving work. Our Suicide Prevention and Care Coordination programs depend upon support from donors in order to keep operating. Please, won't you consider making a special gift today? Someone's life may depend upon it.