State Health Department to award suicide-prevention program grants

Mike Zacharias

The Minnesota Department of Health will award $950,000 in grants to community organizations and coalitions to learn more about preventing suicide – the second- leading cause of death for 10- to 34-year-olds in Minnesota.

“Suicide is a serious public health problem not only in Minnesota but in the nation as well,” said John Stieger, MDH communications manager. “It’s an issue a lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about, but it is something we should be concerned with.”

The $50,000 to $100,000 grants will be awarded to school districts, health care organizations, nonprofit health and human service organizations, units of government and other agencies.

The department is currently accepting applications until Nov. 2 for two-year suicide prevention proposals.

The organizations must demonstrate experience or expertise in areas of suicide prevention, mental health, health promotion and early intervention factors to reduce the risk of suicide.

Stieger said the department will focus on preventive measures for two demographics: youth and the elderly. People 65 and older have the highest suicide rate in Minnesota.

“The desired effect of these programs would be to improve overall mental health but also focus on those areas,” Stieger said.

Seventy-five thousand dollars of the MDH grant is earmarked for evaluating programs that apply for funding.

Although no groups have applied yet, Stieger said, “there are a lot of organizations interested in the issue.”

Suicide is a problem the University has been forced to deal with as well.

“In the six years I have been here, we’ve had suicides every year,” said Edward Ehlinger, director of Boynton Health Service. “It’s always a traumatic thing, and people always wonder what we can do to prevent it.”

Ehlinger said Boynton works to identify problems before suicides occur.

“We deal a lot with depression, so we try to do a lot of stress-reduction activities on campus,” said Ehlinger. “We try to identify students who are depressed and intervene that way.”

Ehlinger said Boynton offers a variety of services to combat depression.

“The mental health clinic, as well as (University Counseling and Consulting Services) deal with folks who are depressed,” Ehlinger said. “Because (untreated depression) is probably the leading cause of suicide.”

Boynton also provides services after a suicide has occurred.

“If a suicide occurs on campus, we do a lot of counseling around that with folks who are involved with that student,” said Ehlinger.

People seeking advice concerning suicide or depression can call the 24-hour Hennepin County Suicide Prevention line at (612) 347-2222 or Boynton’s Mental Health Clinic at (612) 624-1444.


Mike Zacharias welcomes comments at [email protected]