Coping With Youth Suicide and Overdose. One Community’s Efforts to Investigate, Intervene, and Prevent Suicide Contagion
Hacker K~~Collins J~~et al
From 2000Ð2005, Somerville, MA, experienced a number of youth overdoses and suicides. The community response followed CDC recommendations for contagion containment. A community coalition, Somerville Cares About Prevention, became a pivotal convener of community partners and a local research organization, the Institute for Community Health, provided needed expertise in surveillance and analysis. Mayoral leadership provided the impetus for action while community activists connected those at risk with mental health resources. Using a variety of data sources (including death certificates, youth risk surveys, 911 call data, and hospital discharges) overdose and suicide activity were monitored. Rates of suicide and overdose for 10Ð24-year-olds were higher than in previous years. Using case investigation methods, the majority of suicide victims were found to be linked through common peer groups and substance abuse. Subsequent community action steps included: a community-based trauma response team, improved media relationships, focus groups for suicide survivors, and prevention trainings to community stakeholders. Youth suicide and overdose activity subsided in May of 2005. The community partnerships were critical elements for developing a response to this public health crisis. This collaborative approach to suicide contagion used existing resources and provides important lessons learned for other communities facing similar circumstances.