District of Columbia Department of Mental Health

District of Columbia Department of Mental Health
Garrett Lee Smith State
District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. proposes to address youth suicide through its suicide prevention initiative, Capitol CARES: Comprehensive Approach to Reducing Risk for and Eliminating Suicide. The program involves three distinct activities to extend existing successful suicide prevention efforts in the District of Columbia: 1) Gatekeeper training of special populations including schools, police, clergy and primary care providers; 2) Screening through collaborative efforts with both public and private partners; and 3) Social Marketing to educate the community about suicide prevention and potential warning signs.

The vast majority of youth ages 10-24 in D.C. are of ethnic minority descent, with approximately 82% African American and 11% Latino. Although the numbers of completed suicides for youth in D.C. is low, youth are almost twice as likely as the national sample to attempt suicide. Healthy lifestyles for thousands of D.C. children are hindered by environmental and social factors such as poverty, community violence, drugs, gangs, and child abuse. Given the risk factors and the small geographical size of the District, all youth in D.C. will be exposed to this suicide prevention program, though we will be targeting schools for screening primarily in the City’s poorest neighborhoods.

We plan to saturate D.C. with QPR Gatekeeper Training to “natural gatekeepers” in schools, juvenile justice, foster care services, residential treatment centers, churches, and primary care settings such as pediatrician’s offices and emergency rooms to increase awareness and response to youth distress. Mini-grants will be offered to local organizations who work with youth to help raise awareness about the relationship of suicide to related risk factors specific to urban youth such as violence exposure, trauma, substance abuse, and early and unprotected sex. A social marketing plan will be developed for the purpose of reducing stigma associated with mental health services and raising awareness about suicide behaviors and related risk factors as a public health problem in D.C.

The unique goals and objectives of this grant are to: (1) Create city-wide infrastructure of linked supports for suicide prevention; (2) Increase awareness of the extent of the problem, signs and symptoms, and appropriate response for suicide risk, including related risk factors for suicide (e.g., violence exposure, gang involvement, unprotected sex, HIV/AIDS exposure, substance abuse); (3) Identify and link youth at risk for suicide to services; (4) Build capacity for referrals and ensure availability of care for youth at risk for and during a suicidal crisis; (5) Reduce suicide attempts by D.C. youth; and (6) Suicide reporting and data collection for DC will be accurate, comprehensive, and up to date. We hope to reach at least 1000 youth annually through mini-grant activities. We also hope to provide QPR to at least 1000 people annually. By 2015, all residents of D.C. will have been exposed to some suicide prevention materials.