Suicide prevention program well worth community effort

Congratulations to all those who have been involved in the effort to put together a strategic suicide prevention plan for Marquette County. The plan, revealed recently at a meeting of the Marquette County Board, was developed over the past year.

“There’s a lot that we did in this, a lot more to be done,” said county Commissioner Steven Pence. “I think what we were trying to do was to gather all of the agencies together that have some interest in this, to identify them and what they’re doing, and to identify…our strengths and weaknesses and then to try and coordinate an effort.”

Having the plan prepared by this month was one of the main objectives of the assembled work group, which included the county board, Marquette General Hospital, the Marquette County Health Department, Pathways Community Mental Health, Catholic Social Services, Great Lakes Recovery and the Marquette Alger Regional Education Service Agency.

“It’s certainly not a perfect plan and we will have people tell us that, and we already know that, but as time goes on, the plan can be tweaked,” Pence said. “The important thing is to get people working on it.”

Statistics show Marquette County has about a dozen suicides each year per 100,000 people, which is above the state average. The number of suicide attempts in the county has increased over the past three years. More than 1,000 suicide attempts were made in the county from 2010-2012.

Over the past several months, Sandra McGovern, clinical director for inpatient psychiatric services at Marquette General Hospital, became the principal architect of the prevention plan, which was modeled after Michigan’s suicide prevention plan.

An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to suicide prevention in the county was completed.

“Overall, the SWOT analysis revealed that in addition to the central problem of suicide in Marquette (County), there’s multiple system, logistical and communication problems,” McGovern said.

The work group involved in the project hopes to implement the plan by 2015, with several steps expected to be taken over the coming year. Officials said the program is now in its infancy.

With even one suicide being too many for our community, the statistics show the importance of an integrated and strategic plan to promote suicide prevention, with an aim to reduce incidence and counsel those bereaved by suicide.

We think the prevention efforts are vital to Marquette County. The steps forward the work group takes to develop the program will hopefully decrease the number of lives lost. We welcome the initiative and again congratulate all those involved.