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Updated suicide prevention plan integrates social media, increased awareness

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced an updated suicide prevention plan on Monday.
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced an updated suicide prevention plan on Monday.
Bill Starling, file, Associated Press

It has been more than 10 years since a national plan to address suicide was introduced in 2001. Now, with updated research and the increasing power of social media, a new plan proposed by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin will focus on making suicide prevention a part of everyday life.

"Suicide is a growing concern, taking the lives of twice as many people on average as homicide, officials said," Reuters reported. "They said on average, about 100 Americans take their own lives each day. More than 8 million U.S. adults seriously thought about suicide in the last year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration."

The goal of this new plan is to save 20,000 lives in the next five years, and the plan will include $55 million in federal grants to state, tribal and community prevention efforts, reported USA Today.

The plan asks community groups, friends and family members to take an active role in suicide prevention, including utilizing Facebook.

"The new Facebook service will allow users to report suicidal comments they see online from friends," Reuters reported. "The website will then send the potential victims an email urging them to call the hotline as well as chat confidentially online with a counselor."

Medicare has started covering screening for depression, and the Department of Veterans Affairs has hired 1,600 new mental-health workers under an executive order by President Obama, according to USA Today.

"Despite his administration's efforts to expand prevention efforts for veterans, including beefing up a special hotline, the number of suicides appears to be growing," Reuters reported. "There were 17,754 suicide attempts among veterans last year — about 48 a day — up from 10,888 in 2009, data from the Department of Veterans Affairs showed."

Overall, the new plan asserts that suicide is indeed preventable and that more open discussion and widespread help for people with depression could end up saving many lives.

If the new plan is fully implemented, it could reduce the suicide rate, said Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology. "It's too early to predict if this plan will be more effective than its initial version," he said in an e-mail to USA Today. "But this plan brings many more players to the task."

"It takes the entire community to prevent suicides. It's not just one individual," Reuters quoted Benjamin as saying. "We all can play a role."

There are many resources individuals can seek out, including, which provide suicide prevention tips and warning signs.