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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

New Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan aims to reduce suicide deaths through education

Adrienne Luther Johnson stands in front of a brightly covered mural, painting.
Rebecca Smith
Columbia artist Adrienne Luther Johnson paints a mural at a 2023 launch event for 988 video phone services. Luther says talking about 988 in a colorful and playful way, through art, is an important part of destigmatizing asking for help. “As a millennial, I feel like we were raised through this evolution of the erasure of the stigma with suicide talk, like any sort of mental health discussion."

The Missouri Suicide Prevention Network has released a new statewide suicide prevention planthat aims to educate Missourians about what they can do to prevent suicides in their families and communities.

Written in partnership with the Missouri Behavioral Health Council and the Missouri Department of Mental Health, The newly released 2024-2028 Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan offers a variety of tools and strategies that are intended to help decrease Missouri’s number of suicide deaths, which haveincreased somewhat steadily and remained higher than the national average over the past decade. In 2021, Missouri recorded a suicide rate of 18.7 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people, which was higher than the national average of 14.1 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.

Casey Muckler is the crisis services coordinator with the Department of Mental Health. She said the plan isn’t just a policy guide, but rather a compilation of real, tangible solutions that are meant to be accessible for everyone.

“The purpose of the plan is really very simple. It's for us to save lives. And so our goal is really to take the state plan, identify strategic and also evidence based ways that Missourians can play a role in suicide prevention, how they can give other people hope, and how we can ensure equal access to care for those who may be at risk of suicide,” Muckler said.

"We want every Missourian to take a role in suicide prevention, and we know that every every Missourian can make a difference in suicide prevention."
Casey Muckler

The Missouri Suicide Prevention Network (MSPN) is a committee that was created in 2018 to oversee the creation of the Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan in collaboration with state agencies and departments. Though the Missouri Suicide Prevention Plan has been published since 2001, the 2024-2028 plan will expand and improve upon previous versions by using a 5-year model. MSPN has used a 3-year model of the plan in the past, but Muckler said that a 5-year plan will allow partners to “really make enough progress in these areas to make a difference in Missouri.”

While the plan does outline state priorities and present policy guidelines, the overall goal is to go beyond the policy by creating a state action plan that everyone — lawmakers, health workers, educators, community members and more — can use to inform themselves about suicide and what they can do to help prevent it. It’s meant to be a resource for everyone, not just mental health professionals.

“We're talking to everyday people who are just passionate about keeping people safe in their community, and helping them continue on and make sure that they feel safe and heard and understood, and that we can make a difference in keeping them here,” Muckler said.

Within the 12-page document, readers can expect to find: information about what the 988 suicide and crisis hotline is and how to use it, guidance on when to call 911 vs. 988, educational materials about the common warning signs for suicide and how to identify them, information about mental health resources in the state, tips and resources for talking about suicide and mental health with loved ones, trainings and more.

As part of the plan, MSPN and partners are asking and encouraging all Missourians to complete a 30-minute suicide prevention training program called “MO Ask Listen Refer,” which can be accessed at moasklistenrefer.org. According to Muckler, the hope is that people across the state will use the training to learn what they can do to potentially save a life.

“You can go online and complete this 30 minute training — it's very easy, but it's really meant to teach somebody how they can prevent suicide and get someone help. So it will teach you about the warning signs of suicide, what you can say to somebody who may be thinking about suicide and how you can help them,” Muckler said.

The 2024-2028 plan highlights three main priorities, which each include short, medium and long-term goals. The top priorities listed are:

  • Raise public awareness about suicide risk and prevention. 
  • Support community-led efforts to promote suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention care (care for community, family and friends after a suicide). 
  • Help diverse groups and organizations create suicide prevention programs, systems and policies. 

Above all else, Muckler said creators of the plan want to show Missourians that they can play a role in preventing suicide deaths and give every resident the tools they need to save a life.
“Really, we just want to empower people to have conversations with the people that they love and people that they may not even know about suicide prevention,” Muckler said. “The less we talk about it, the more stigmatized it is, and we really just want folks to feel encouraged and empowered to have these conversations that are really hard to do at first, but may just save someone's life.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org

Anna Spidel is a health reporter for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. A proud Michigander, Anna hails from Dexter, Michigan and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Michigan State University in 2022. Previously, she worked with member station Michigan Radio as an assistant producer on Stateside.
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