FLX Politics: Addressing suicide in Seneca County

The Seneca County Mental Health Department has been given the green light to begin taking a closer look at suicide — to begin working on prevention more aggressively.While it’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., it is estimated that 9.3 million adults report having suicidal thoughts in one year. In 2013, there were 41,149 reported cases of suicide — which accounted for 113 deaths per day.Suicide was first discussed at June’s standing committee meetings with the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, as Director of Community Services Scott LaVigne provided an update on the Mental Health Department.LaVigne said that the County received a grant from the New York State Office of Mental Health to begin work in Seneca County around suicide prevention. He pointed out that since the County doesn’t have a Suicide Prevention Coalition — the money will be used to aid the department in identifying and dealing with suicide directly.LaVigne says that the grant will allow Seneca County to begin establishing baseline statistics around suicide. The first step for his office will be to determine how many suicides are happening in Seneca County, identify the types of suicides, as well as the demographics among those who are committing suicide. Those efforts are already underway.The second step in the process will be identifying and engaging key stakeholders for suicide prevention in Seneca County. He says that will mean engaging the public health director, coroners, law enforcement, schools, as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment providers from the area.At that point, a summit will be held in the fall of 2016, which will involve key players from Seneca County, and possibly the region — which will serve as a way to engage the public, as well as those stakeholders on suicide prevention.The final part of this process will involve creating a Suicide Prevention Coalition, which will be made up of community stakeholders — such as doctors, members of the community, and members of the Mental Health Department. This coalition will work to address and identify trends within the County on suicide, while working to formulate strategies for suicide prevention.LaVigne says that updates will continue to come to the Board of Supervisors as his office moves forward with the process.For many, this feels like an effort that is long-overdue. Others believe that it will have a positive impact on young people — who are more frequently impacted by suicide. FLX Politics is a weekly feature by Josh Durso, which takes a critical look at policy in the Finger Lakes. He is the Lead News Editor at FingerLakes1.com and can be reached at josh@fingerlakes1.com.