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June 2017 Edition
TSPN Publishes Latest
"Status of Suicide in Tennessee" Report

In any given day, three people in Tennessee die by suicide. As of 2015, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people (ages 10-19) in Tennessee, with one person in this age group lost to suicide every week. We lose one person between the ages of 10-24 every four days, and every day we lose at least one person over the age of 45, with adults in midlife and older adults remaining at higher risk.

The latest edition of the Status of Suicide in Tennessee report, published annually by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN), addresses the problem of suicide in our state. It also highlights major innovations within the Network's outreach and awareness efforts during the past year.

In 2015, the latest year for which state-specific figures are available, both the raw number of suicide deaths and the rate per 100,000 had surpassed the highest number noted the previous year. There were 1,065 recorded suicide deaths, at a rate of 15.6 per 100,000 people. This figure represents an 11 percent increase in the suicide rate from 2014, with 945 suicide deaths and a rate of 14.0 per 100,000.

Additionally, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for young people (ages 10-19) in Tennessee. In 2015, there were 54 deaths among persons in this age group in Tennessee, at a rate of 6.4 per 100,000. This figure maintains a 64 percent increase in the suicide rate among this age group over the last five years (in 2011, there were 33 deaths at a rate of 3.9 per 100,000).

Over the course of the lifespan, white males in Tennessee experience suicide rates several times higher than any other race-sex subgroup, and this distinction is especially pronounced in middle-aged and older adults. Attention is also given to the nature of non-fatal versus fatal attempts and common suicide methods-almost two-thirds of all suicides in Tennessee involve a firearm.

"Going forward, we have our work cut out for us," explains Scott Ridgway, MS, TSPN's Executive Director. "Tennessee's suicide rate and raw number of deaths rose sharply in 2015, and recent statistics indicate a growing problem with suicide among adolescents and preteens. There are only two things that give us solace in the face of these developments: that without our dedicated involvement, even more people would have been lost; and that we have the staff, volunteers, resources, and strategy to turn back the tide."

The Status of Suicide in Tennessee report has been published annually since 2012. The latest edition, along with past versions, is available online via the TSPN website (
Kenneth and Madge Tullis, MD, Suicide Prevention Training Act of 2017 Clears General Assembly; Goes to Governor's Desk

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) proudly announces the passage of the Kenneth and Madge Tullis, MD, Suicide Prevention Training Act of 2017, passing the Senate on May 4 by a vote of 89-0. Signature by Governor Bill Haslam is expected later this month.

The legislation requires licensed counselors in Tennessee to complete two hours of suicide prevention training every five years. The bill represents a longtime goal of TSPN ensure that counselors in Tennessee are trained in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention protocols. "This kind of training was always encouraged among counselors in our state, but not explicitly required," explains Scott Ridgway, MS, TSPN's Executive Director. "Now, people in Tennessee can be assured of the knowledge that the counselor they work with, or the one they entrust their loved ones to, will be help them through a suicide crisis."

The legislation is named for Kenneth Tullis, MD (above left), an award-winning psychiatrist and survivor of several suicide attempts, and his wife Madge (above right). The Tullises co-founded TSPN in 2001 as part of a local response to the release of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention from the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and a gro wing national suicide prevention movement. "Ken and Madge Tullis were the primary forces behind the development of the suicide prevention movement in this state," Ridgway said. "They recognized the need for a requirement that counselors understand what to do if one of their patients becomes actively suicidal or shows signs that they may be considering suicide. Naming the bill after them is our way of honoring them for all they have done to help save lives in Tennessee.

The Tullis Act had the support of many mental health advocacy groups across Tennessee, such as the state chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). "The volunteers and Board of AFSP were so pleased to be able to partner with TSPN this year to help promote passage of the Tullis Act," said Shannon Hall, chair of the group's Tennessee Chapter. "This is yet another step towards making Tennessee suicide-safer, and we thank our elected officials for seeing the value in this bill. We look forward to partnering with TSPN again in the future on more legislation."
MHA of East and Middle Tennessee to Receive Honorable Mentions during Innovation in Programming Awards

Mental Health America (MHA) has announced its honorees for its 2017 Innovation in Programming Awards. Two Tennessee MHA affiliates will be recognized with honorable mentions at the national organization's annual conference in Washington, DC, on June 14-16.

The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee (MHAET) was recognized for the work of its Peer Recovery Call Center. The Center provides mental health guidance and support to roughly 2,500 people in this part of the state each year. The program, which is staffed largely by people with mental health lived experience, was cited as an example of peer-directed services as an option for people in crisis and encouraging people to seek treatment for themselves and their loved ones. The Peer Recovery Call Center can be reached at (865)-584-9125 or

Also, Mental Health America of Midd le Tennessee (MHAMT) was honored for the work of the Zero Suicide Initiative Task Force, which is managed by TSPN. The Task Force and TSPN work with the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to develop top-down best-practice strategies for eliminating suicide in Tennessee's behavioral health treatment facilities. The Initiative focuses on providing resources and training at all stages of the patient experience and among all staff levels of partner facilities. Tennessee's Zero Suicide Initiative has been held up as a national model for implementation of the "zero suicide" concept. More information about Tennessee's Zero Suicide Initiative is available at
Lived Experience Moment

The following reflection was submitted anonymously to You Are Not Alone (, a blog managed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I Have a Ghost, and She Lives in Me

Before I struggled with depression and anxiety, I had no clue what it meant to be depressed. Now I know, but it's tough to explain. An attempt, from a bleary-eyed late night when the dark streak in me was stirring something wild:


    I have a ghost, and she lives in me.

    This isn't a cool melancholy you can sink into like an old chair-cozily, lazily, happy-to-be-sad.

    This isn't a sometimes sadness, the one that begins to feel like art when you're half a bourbon in.

    This isn't the week after a breakup when the tears subside and your cheeks are gaunt, when the charred romance rims your eyes in a way that's nearly flattering.

    It's years of parking yourself on the couch and letting your tireless husband do every chore and errand because pretending to be well for ten hours a day has left you a shell of a woman. It's telling him you wouldn't blame him for leaving, because you're not the woman he married, and you know you won't be again.

    It's dreading the shower, because instead of feeling cleansed, you feel trapped by the flimsy vinyl curtain in a naked, raw cage match against your worst thoughts.

    It's lying in bed, not having eaten in days because food turns to concrete in your mouth. It's exhaling, feeling your heartbeat slow, and thinking, "maybe this is it, maybe now it's over." It's inhaling again and regretting that it's not over.

    It's reading about the vibrant, active lovers-of-life who succumb to illness, and thinking that God made a mistake, that surely he meant to take you. Why doesn't he take you?

    This is a live-in demon. A whispering, wily villain that braids your thoughts with her desires, making you forget what's yours and what's hers. It's a dark and loveless companionship, and you know the only way to live is to leave, and the leaving will shatter the life you knew. It's when someone wants you hurt; it's when someone wants you dead. And that someone is you.


These are all places I've been. From each of these places, I lacked a line of sight to the future. I don't even mean an ideal future; I mean any future. I didn't trust tomorrow. I regretted yesterday.

Today, I have a hint of a dream for the future. It's not fleshed out and it needs a lot of work, but it's there, glinting in the morning sun. Today, I want to live. Today, things are better. Not all better. Not better forever. But I can peek back into those dark places and know that they're finite.

Here are the things that have helped me:

-Therapy (weekly and intensive outpatient therapy) 
-Support from family and friends

Just shy of a year ago, a loved one shared their counseling experience with me and I felt empowered to reach out. While I won't get into the details here about why I delayed treatment so long, stigma and fear of the unknown were two major barriers.

The first step was the hardest, but the fruits of the labor-the boring, everyday fruits I took for granted before-are so, so sweet.