Rhode Island is slated to receive $2.7 million in federal grants to improve suicide prevention programs for children, teens and young adults. The grants are being spread among four organizations - the Rhode Island Department for Children, Youth, and Family; the Rhode Island Youth Suicide Prevention Project; the Family Service of Rhode Island Children's Treatment and Recovery Center and Brown University.
"Many young people who commit suicide have a treatable mental illness but do not get the help they need," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., when he announced the grants last Thursday. These federal funds will provide resources for prevention and outreach efforts for these at-risk youth before it is too late, he added.
"It is part of a continuous effort to fight the problem of youth suicides," said Chip Unruh, press secretary for Reed. He added that these grants will go hand-in-hand with the re-authorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, a bipartisan effort that provides funding and grants to the 35 states that currently implement suicide prevention programs.
A Rhode Island Health Department study conducted last year cited suicide as the third leading cause of death in Rhode Island among 15- to 24-year-olds. The study also found that approximately 9 percent of Rhode Island children between sixth and twelfth grade attempt suicide. The youth suicide rate in the state is estimated at 3.2 per 100,000, compared to 4.3 nationally, according to a 2005-10 study of suicide conducted by the Rhode Island Child Death Review Team.
"Youth suicide rates aren't necessarily increasing in the state. It's more of a national problem," said Sarah Dinklage, executive director of the Rhode Island Student Assistance Services of the health department. The high national suicide rate could be attributed in part to the lackluster economy, she added. "But the primary reason why people commit suicide is untreated mental health problems, so it is important to have good access to treatment."
Dinklage oversees the Rhode Island Youth Suicide Prevention Project, which implements evidence-based suicide prevention programs in select public schools and community-based organizations in six Rhode Island cities - Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, Newport and West Warwick. The project received $480,000 of the $2.7 million grant.
"We plan to use the money to enhance our programs and its resources and continue the initiative to train gatekeepers, school personnel and the staff of community-based organizations to help recognize the warning signs of suicide and step in to help at-risk youth," Dinklage said.
Anthony Spirito, professor of psychiatry and human behavior, and part of the team to receive the grant on Brown's behalf, said the grant will be used "to test whether or not our treatment approach for suicidal adolescents is better than typical treatment and also beef up services and resources for at-risk youth."