Can Tompkins County Prevent Suicides?

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lived the American Dream—professional success, financial security, happy families. No wonder the nation was shocked to learn of their deaths by suicide last week. Were there warning signs? Spade’s husband revealed that the iconic fashion designer was receiving treatment for depression and anxiety. Bourdain’s mother said the celebrity chef and journalist was in a “dark mood” shortly before his death.

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To share current efforts to fight suicide in our community, the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition invites the general public to a presentation on the Zero Suicide Model. The presentation, by Olivia B. Retallack of the New York State Suicide Prevention Office, will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. Monday June 18 in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Public Library.

The Coalition has taken up the proposed adoption of the Zero Suicide Model as a priority. Zero Suicide is a set of strategies and tools for suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems. Zero Suicide argues that suicides can be prevented by closing cracks in healthcare systems—that “suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.”

Zero Suicide considers suicide prevention a core responsibility of healthcare. Specifically, this entails a systematic clinical approach in healthcare systems—training staff, screening for suicide ideation, utilizing evidence-based interventions, mandating continuous quality improvement, treating suicidality as a presenting problem—and not simply relying on the heroic efforts of crisis staff and individual clinicians.

As the Suicide Prevention Resource Center puts it: “The programmatic approach of Zero Suicide is based on the realization that suicidal individuals often fall through multiple cracks in a fragmented and sometimes distracted health care system, and on the premise that a systematic approach to quality improvement is necessary.”

Presentation on the Zero Suicide Model

Olivia B. Retallack

New York State Suicide Prevention Office

June 18, 2018   2–3:30 p.m.

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library

To RSVP, click on the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZeroSuicidePresentation

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

“Thank You for Your Work”

New York state officials singled out The Sophie Fund as well as the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service this week for their leadership and commitment in promoting improved suicide prevention practices in Tompkins County.

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Tompkins County proclamation of suicide prevention month (September 2017): Lee-Ellen Marvin, executive director, Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service; Scott MacLeod, The Sophie Fund; Anna Kelles, Tompkins County legislator

In a March 26 letter addressed to the two Ithaca organizations, Jay Carruthers, director of the state Suicide Prevention Office, and Sigrid Pechenik, director of the state Suicide Prevention Center, also applauded the suicide prevention efforts of city and county officials and local mental health stakeholders.

“We thank you and applaud the efforts that have taken place in Tompkins County over the past year,” wrote Carruthers and Pechenik. “Under your leadership and commitment to make Tompkins County a suicide safer community, you introduced and pushed forward the state’s vision.”

The state officials said they particularly acknowledged “The Sophie Fund’s efforts to bring Zero Suicide into healthcare systems in Tompkins County.” They noted that The Sophie Fund organized a summit to introduce the Zero Suicide Model to county outpatient, inpatient, and college campus leadership; created a website page devoted to Zero Suicide resources; and asked the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition to form a committee to focus on Zero Suicide Model implementation.

Remarking on the “extraordinary progress” achieved over the past year, Carruthers and Pechenik added: “We consider Tompkins County and its newly formed Suicide Prevention Coalition an exemplary testament to vision, dedication and mobilization of community stakeholders.”

The letter highlighted The Watershed Declaration, a community pledge to intensify suicide prevention efforts; Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s proclamation recognizing suicide as a public health concern; and the Tompkins County legislature’s designation of September as suicide prevention month.

“As the New York State Prevention Plan states, ‘suicide prevention cannot succeed without community involvement and leadership.’ Thank you for your work,” Carruthers and Pechenik concluded.

Read the Full letter

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Download “1,700 Too Many: New York State’s Suicide Prevention Plan 2016–17”

Albany Lauds Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Steps

The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition on Tuesday took concrete steps toward the adoption of the Zero Suicide Model for local suicide prevention, including the formation of a committee to coordinate future planning. Meanwhile, New York state officials hailed the “extraordinary progress” recently achieved in the county’s suicide prevention efforts.

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Sharon MacDougall leads a subgroup of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition

The coalition, holding its third meeting since the body was established last July, also made further progress on the development of a strategic plan to guide suicide prevention policies and practices in the community.

Sharon MacDougall, deputy mental health commissioner and coalition convener, announced the coalition’s decision to establish a five-member committee to coordinate discussion, collaboration, and possible implementation of the Zero Suicide Model. She also reported the coalition’s agreement to host a briefing on the model for the Tompkins County community at large in June.

The committee members are: Lee-Ellen Marvin and Sheila McCue, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Bev Chin, program director, Health Planning Council; Helen Kaplan, clinical director, Alcohol and Drug Council of Tompkins County; and Sharon MacDougall, deputy mental health commissioner.

Scott MacLeod of The Sophie Fund presented a report to the coalition on the organization’s initiative to promote the Zero Suicide Model. MacLeod noted that The Sophie Fund, along with Ithaca’s Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, organized a four-hour expert briefing on Zero Suicide for Tompkins County’s senior healthcare leadership in October 2017 at The Statler Hotel.

MacLeod said that The Sophie Fund was encouraged by the generally positive responses it has received from all the Statler participants about committing their organizations to implementing the Zero Suicide Model and conducting an annual self-assessment study monitoring implementation.

According to MacLeod, David Evelyn, vice president for medical affairs at Cayuga Medical Center, stated to The Sophie Fund: “Cayuga Medical Center is committed to Zero Suicide and is currently studying what resources we need to implement. We are pursuing the self-assessment.”

At the start of Tuesday’s meeting, MacDougall asked the coalition to observe a minute of silence in memory of Sophie Hack MacLeod, who died by suicide in Ithaca on March 26, 2016. Sophie was a fine arts student on a medical leave of absence from Cornell University at the time of her death. Her parents, Scott MacLeod and Susan Hack, established The Sophie Fund in 2016 to advocate for improved mental health for young people in Tompkins County.

In a related development, Jay Carruthers, director of the New York State Suicide Prevention Office, and Sigrid Pechenik, director of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York, applauded the “extraordinary progress” in suicide prevention in Tompkins County. They singled out several milestones, including the adoption of The Watershed Declaration, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick’s proclamation in support of suicide prevention, and the Tompkins County legislature’s designation of September as suicide prevention month.

The state officials also thanked The Sophie Fund and the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service for their “leadership and commitment to make Tompkins County a suicide safer care community.”

In a letter to The Sophie Fund and the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, they added: “We consider Tompkins County and its newly formed Suicide Prevention Coalition an exemplary testament to vision, dedication and mobilization of community stakeholders. Thank you for your work, and we look forward to our continued partnership.”

The Zero Suicide Model, sometimes called the Suicide Safer Care Model, holds that suicides can be prevented by closing cracks in healthcare systems—that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.

Zero Suicide means making suicide prevention a core responsibility of healthcare. Specifically, this entails a systematic clinical approach in healthcare systems—training staff, screening for suicide ideation, utilizing evidence-based interventions, mandating continuous quality improvement, treating suicidality as a presenting problem—and not simply relying on the heroic efforts of crisis staff and individual clinicians.

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

Report: Update on the Zero Suicide Model

The Sophie Fund on Monday issued a report on efforts to implement the Zero Suicide Model for suicide prevention in Tompkins County. The organization will present the report at a meeting on Tuesday of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The report noted that The Sophie Fund submitted a proposal to the coalition on December 7, 2017 calling on it to establish a committee made up of representatives of the community’s main health and behavioral health providers to promote and coordinate the implementation of the Zero Suicide Model.

The Zero Suicide Model, sometimes called the “Suicide Safer Care Model,” holds that suicides can be prevented by closing cracks in healthcare systems—that suicide deaths for individuals under care within health and behavioral health systems are preventable.

Zero Suicide means making suicide prevention a core responsibility of healthcare. Specifically, this entails a systematic clinical approach in healthcare systems—training staff, screening for suicide ideation, utilizing evidence-based interventions, mandating continuous quality improvement, treating suicidality as a presenting problem—and not simply relying on the heroic efforts of crisis staff and individual clinicians.

The Sophie Fund, along with Ithaca’s Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service and the New York State Suicide Prevention Office, organized a four-hour expert briefing on Zero Suicide for Tompkins County’s senior healthcare leadership on October 16, 2017 at The Statler Hotel.

The 11 invited and participating healthcare leaders represented the Tompkins County Mental Health Department; Cayuga Medical Center; Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Cornell University; Ithaca College; and Tompkins Cortland Community College.

According to the Sophie Fund’s “Report on the Zero Suicide Model In Tompkins County,” in December 2017, and in January and March 2018, The Sophie Fund asked the Statler participants to make commitments to implementing Zero Suicide and to conducting an annual self-assessment study monitoring implementation.

“While The Sophie Fund is encouraged by the generally positive responses it has received from all the Statler participants, it must report that to date none of the healthcare organizations has notified The Sophie Fund of a formal decision to make the commitments,” the report stated.

Zero Suicide is at the heart of the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, released by the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The NSSP’s Goal 8 is to “promote suicide prevention as a core component of healthcare services.” Goal 9 is to “promote and implement effective clinical and professional practices for assessing and treating those at risk for suicidal behaviors.”

Zero Suicide is explicitly embraced by the New York State Suicide Prevention Plan 2016–17, entitled 1,700 Too Many. Implementing Zero Suicide in health and behavioral healthcare settings is the first pillar of the suicide prevention strategy outlined in the plan. The second pillar is to “create and strengthen suicide safer communities.”

More than 40 representatives from local mental health organizations established the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition last July to foster greater collaboration and coordination in fighting suicide.

Click here to read “Report on the Zero Suicide Model In Tompkins County”

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

It’s Watershed Declaration Month

The Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday proclaimed September 2017 to be “The Watershed Declaration Month” in support of intensified suicide prevention efforts in the community.

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In a proclamation read out in the name of legislature Chair Michael E. Lane, Legislator Anna Kelles said:

“I call upon our citizens, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, health care providers, and educational institutions to raise awareness of Ithaca’s mental health support services, encourage those in need to seek treatment, honor those in our community we have lost too soon, commit to an all-out effort to prevent suicide, and support the efforts of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition.”

The proclamation came at the start of national Suicide Prevention Month and six weeks after the launch of the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition by 32 local mental health organizations. The Watershed Declaration was adopted at a meeting of mental health stakeholders in Ithaca on April 17. The organizations declared suicide to be a serious public health concern and pledged to “intensify efforts toward saving lives and bringing hope to those struggling with suicide thoughts or affected by suicide loss.”

In receiving the proclamation, Scott MacLeod, a donor advisor of The Sophie Fund, established to support mental health initiatives for young people in the community, thanked Kelles and the legislature for their support. He also commended the initiative of Tompkins County Mental Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa and Deputy Commissioner Sharon MacDougall to establish the county’s Suicide Prevention Coalition.

“We learned the hard way that suicide is a terrible tragedy, and we learned the hard way that suicide is preventable,” said MacLeod, whose daughter Sophie, a 23-year-old Cornell University student on a mental health leave of absence, died by suicide in March 2016. “We are convinced that promoting greater awareness of risk factors and warning signs—and with the role that healthcare systems can play in closing the gaps—can really save a lot of lives. One life is too many to lose, and we are losing too many.”

Lee-Ellen Marvin, executive director of the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in Ithaca, lauded the legislature’s designation of The Watershed Declaration Month. “It’s exciting to see people from all different sectors, the government and the non-profit community, coming together to re-enlist effort and energy in suicide prevention,” she said. “If we are going to make change in how suicide is understood and treated, and if we are going to register it as a public health crisis, we need governmental bodies to stand behind us.”

Kelles, chair of the county legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, said The Sophie Fund’s push for The Watershed Declaration and Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition “were both critical first steps in our community engagement to reduce deaths from suicide.”

“These are first steps on a long road to a very attainable goal that needs engagement from everyone in the community,” Kelles added. “We have a very fast paced lifestyle as a society where productivity is the key to survival. In some ways this is beautiful but in other ways it has contributed to a breakdown in nurturing quality time within families and within the larger community. The ultimate impact is steadily increasing isolation from each other and increasing rates of depression. Part of the work of the coalition and The Sophie Fund is to help us regain that sense of community through collective care and attention for each other’s well-being. To create comprehensive systems of mental health support for if and when any one of us feels buried under the weight of our lives is to build a resilient and vibrant community.”

Photo caption: Lee Ellen Marvin, executive director, Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service; Scott MacLeod, donor advisor, The Sophie Fund; Anna Kelles, Tompkins County legislator (District 2, City of Ithaca)

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Tompkins County Legislature Proclamation

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The Watershed Declaration