Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
September 7, 2016

Julie Naughton, Public Information Officer, Communications and Legislative Services, (office) 402-471-1695 or (cell) 402-405-7202,

DHHS Working Proactively to Reduce Suicide Deaths

Lincoln—Knowledge is power – a point Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services is actively addressing in September during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 41,000 people die yearly of suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death among adults in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 24. According to state data, an average of 100 Nebraskans yearly complete suicide.

“Promoting widespread awareness of suicide warning signs and how to help will increase the likelihood that a person can be connected to help early,” said Courtney Phillips, chief executive officer of DHHS. “This strategy creates an understanding that Nebraskans of all ages can make a difference and save a life by knowing what to look for, the questions to ask and resources to help. There is hope and there is help.”

Gov. Pete Ricketts has declared September National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Nebraska. 

 “Many times, people are afraid that by talking about suicide, they will put it in the thoughts of a depressed person,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “The truth is the idea is already there. Let the person know you care. Ask the question ‘are you thinking of suicide?’ Ask how, where, when and if they have the means in place to complete suicide. And persuade them to seek help.” 

 Warning signs for suicide in any age group include:
· Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation
· Increased alcohol and drug use
· Aggressive behavior
· Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
· Dramatic mood swings
· Talking, writing or thinking about death
· Impulsive or reckless behavior 

 Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:
· Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
· Saying goodbye to friends and family
· Mood shifts from despair to calm
· Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the methods they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription

DHHS has worked with other stakeholders such as the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center and the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition to create the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Plan, said Dawson. The plan’s goal is to decrease the incidences of suicide with a variety of complementary strategies, including reducing stigma, increasing the number of Nebraskans who know warning signs and increasing local and regional collaborations addressing health promotion and early prevention. 

Also, DHHS has actively worked with the Nebraska educational system and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center to provide two training curriculums for school personnel in grades K through 12 – Kognito, intended to build skills and cause positive change in students’ behavior, and Question, Persuade, Refer, which teaches immediate suicide prevention strategies.

As well, Nebraska continues to widen the reach of LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) groups. LOSS team members work with individuals who have been affected by the suicide of another person.  “Currently, the counties served by a LOSS team are Sarpy, Lancaster, Saline, Seward, Buffalo and Kearney,” said Renee Faber, prevention manager in the Division of Behavioral Health, noting that those six counties have close to 545,000 people collectively. DHHS provides educational support to the program. “It is our continuing goal to identify communities that are ready for LOSS implementation and develop additional teams in conjunction with local law enforcement.”

For referrals, individuals and families and friends of those with suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.)