Tennessee Makes Strides In Saving Lives

Government and Politics

March 8, 2016

Suicides Down 7% as Legislators Consider Suicide Prevention Training Laws

In any given day, three people in Tennessee die by suicide. As of 2014, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people (ages 10-19) in Tennessee, with one person in this age group lost to suicide every week. We lose one person between the ages of 10-24 every four days, and every day we lose at least one person over the age of 45 midlife and older adults are actually at higher risk.

The latest edition of the Status of Suicide in Tennessee report, published annually by TSPN, addresses the problem of suicide in our state. It also highlights major innovations within the Network's outreach and awareness efforts during the past year.

In 2014, the latest year for which state-specific figures are available, both the raw number of suicide deaths and the rate per 100,000 had backed away from the all-time high noted the previous year. There were 945 recorded suicide deaths, at a rate of 14.4 per 100,000 people, down from 15.7 suicide deaths per 100,000 and 1,017 deaths reported.

However, suicide rates remain elevated among people in midlife, especially white males. Tennesseans aged 45-64 are over three times more likely to die by suicide than those aged 10-19--typically the age group that attracts most of the attention when it comes to suicide prevention efforts. Non-Hispanic whites made up 79% of Tennessee's population in 2014 but accounted for 94% of all reported suicide deaths in the state that year (747 out of 945).

Over the course of the lifespan, white males in Tennessee experience suicide rates several times higher than any other race-sex subgroup, and this distinction is especially pronounced in midlife and old age. Attention is also given to the nature of non-fatal versus fatal attempts and common suicide methods almost two-thirds of all suicides in Tennessee involve a firearm.

"While the recent decline in suicide rates is encouraging, we at TSPN realize that even one death by suicide is too many," explains TSPN Executive Director Scott Ridgway in the Executive Summary. "With the publication of this report, TSPN rededicates itself to the cause of preventing suicide and saving lives in Tennessee."
This year's Status of Suicide in Tennessee report includes several new and redeveloped sections. One new addition highlights the economic cost of suicide, not just in terms of deaths but also non-fatal injuries. In 2014 alone, the total charges for inpatient hospitalization and emergency-department visits associated with suicide attempts in Tennessee amounted to $135.7 million. The section on methods of suicide death includes an update on TSPN's work in the area of lethal means reduction, by way of its Gun Safety Project and new brochures on suicide-proofing private residences. The new report also includes data on regional variations in suicide rates and attempts.

TSPN is currently supporting two bills related to suicide prevention currently being considered by the Tennessee General Assembly. Tennessee HB 2071/ SB 1992 would mandate the require all employees of each LEA to attend annual in-service training sessions in suicide prevention and require each LEA to develop a suicide prevention policy. Meanwhile, Tennessee HB 2317/ SB 2372 would build two hours of suicide prevention training into the licensure requirements for mental health professionals in Tennessee. More information about both of these bills is available on the website of the Tennessee General Assembly (www.capitol.tn.gov).

The Status of Suicide in Tennessee report has been published annually since 2012. The latest edition, along with past versions, is available online via the TSPN website (www.tspn.org/sost).