Community Grants Awarded for Suicide Prevention Programs in Michigan

Although suicide among young people is thankfully rare, the rate of suicide is likely increasing in 2020. In Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has issued nine grants totaling $650,000 for the purpose of suicide prevention. The grants were announced on December 5. The grants will go to evidence-based programming that will lower the rate of suicide attempts and deaths caused by suicide. All of the funds will stay in Michigan.

Purpose of the Grants

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the programs will be a part of the Michigan Health-Disparate Populations initiative. It will be set up as the Suicide Prevention Support for Health Care Clinics. The programs will identify children and adults who are at risk of self-harm and suicide.

Organizations That Will Receive the Grants

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan will issue grants to the Child and Family Charities organization in Lansing, Black Family Development Inc. in Detroit and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn. Each organization had to submit an application that went into detail about suicide rates in their metropolitan areas and plans on how they would identify children and adults at risk of suicide. The funds will help establish programs that will last for at least one year.

What Experts Think About the Suicide Rate

Although it's too early to analyze whether or not the annual suicide rate will increase for 2020, most experts think that it has increased and is still on the rise. Statistical modeling shows a wide range of outcomes based on different input data and assumptions. Out of dozens of models run by a variety of researchers, all of them showed an increase in the suicide rate. The increases ranged from 1% to 145%. This is a large range, and that's because the data isn't complete yet for this year. Each model is different, and the input sources of data vary somewhat.

Increase in Depression and Suicidal Ideation

Mental health experts have colloquially reported an increase in young patients reporting depression. They are also diagnosing more cases of anxiety and depression in young people, including children a well as teens and young adults. More patients seeking mental health services are also reporting thoughts of self-harm and suicide. They have also noted more cases of actual self-harm and reported attempts of suicide among people seeking urgent mental healthcare services.

Reasons for the Increase in Suicidal Thoughts and Behavior

Mental health professionals and researchers have identified many reasons why there has been an increase in depression, suicidal ideation and behavior in 2020. The elephant in the room is the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic triggered a widespread shutdown of a vast swath of industries and sectors of the United States. Restaurants, bars and non-essential retail businesses closed in many places in March and April. Many K-12 schools, colleges and universities canceled in-person classes and set up remote learning. This meant that students weren't able to see their friends. It also meant that teachers and counselors didn't see at-risk students and couldn't tell when their symptoms were worsening.

Children and Young Adults Experience Pandemic-related Stress

In addition to the lack of socializing with peers and observation of teachers and counselors, young people may have felt the stress of the economic impact of COVID-19 on their households. They may have seen a parent lose their job. This could cause fear of homelessness and uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Students may have heard that a teacher or one of their relatives got infected with COVID-19, and they might worry about death and dying when the virus hits close to home. If someone in the student's household became infected, the student might wonder if it was their fault.

Mental Healthcare Has Always Been Lacking in the United States

The United States has not invested in the needed infrastructure or professionals to provide adequate mental healthcare for its citizens. Adults are often on waiting lists for months or even years to get into cognitive behavioral therapy and other counseling services, even if they have private health insurance. Those who are on a public health insurance program have an even more difficult time. There are fewer providers qualified to provide mental health counseling and intervention for children compared to the number of providers for adults. The few professionals who do specialize in pediatric mental health are typically in large cities and have long waiting lists.

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