Susan Phillips (2)

Susan Phillips

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month which offers a time to highlight the necessity of learning and talking about suicide prevention. National Suicide Prevention Week is Sept. 6 – 12 and World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10. 

During these periods, Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System (VBH), which serves 32 counties in the middle Tennessee area with mental health and crisis services, is focusing on providing information and resources to draw attention to the problem and help individuals, families, and communities get help.

“We focus on suicide prevention every day of the year with our crisis, therapy, medication management, alcohol and drug, and co-occurring disorder services. But in September, we’ll definitely be working throughout our entire system to raise awareness even more and let people know we are here for them, especially during these trying times,” said Phyllis Persinger, President & COO of VBH.

According to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network’s (TSPN) 2019 Status of Suicide in Tennessee report, about three people die from suicide every day in Tennessee and is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-19. However, the highest risk is for adults over 45. According to the CDC, for every death by suicide, there are over 25 suicide attempts. Suicide ideation or suicidal thoughts are defined as thinking about or planning a suicide.

Almost everyone has been touched by suicide in some way. One of our big goals has been to reduce the stigma around talking about it. There shouldn’t be shame in dealing with this mental health issue, or any mental health issue.

VBH is a partner of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which can be reached at 800-273-8255. You can also text the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741. The Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides support to people when in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours per day, and seven days a week.

“We’re here to offer hope and to let people know that they’re never alone,” said Laura Tedesco, VP of Crisis Services. “We provide crisis phone counseling, face-to-face crisis evaluation, triage, and referrals with mobile crisis teams, and Crisis Stabilization where people can get respite, obtain stability, and find support for families during psychiatric crises.”

If you know anyone who is showing any of the warning signs, it is best to reach out for help as early as possible. Warning signs vary but may include talking about suicide or looking for a way to die, talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, withdrawing from friends and/or social activities, a recent loss (relationship, financial, social), drastic changes in behavior, loss of interest in usual activities, preparing a will or making final arrangements, giving away prized possessions, fear of a situation of humiliation from failure, previous suicide attempts, increased use of alcohol or drugs, hopelessness, unwillingness to connect with help, and recklessness or impulsive behavior.

The most critical step is to remove the means for suicide and to get professional help immediately. VBH has 19 outpatient centers located throughout the middle Tennessee area and has a No Wrong Door (NWD) approach to obtaining services. They offer Same Day Access for appointments and care which makes the process of getting help simple.

Appointments can be made by calling 1-877-567-6051, where a team of customer service professionals can talk with you, gather information about your current situation, and schedule a location and time convenient to you. All programs and services currently continue serving anyone in need during the coronavirus pandemic. Also, the VBH 24-Hour Crisis Line can be accessed at 1-800-704-2651.

Follow Volunteer Behavioral Health on Facebook and on their website ( for the most up to date events and activities surrounding Suicide Prevention Awareness month.

Susan Phillips is the center director of Cumberland Mental Health.

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