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January 6, 2015

Tennessee receives nearly $5M in adult suicide prevention grants

Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has been awarded two federal grants totaling nearly $5 million dollars, to reduce the rate of suicides in the state. The funds, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), will be focused on preventing suicides statewide. 

“The rate of suicides in Tennessee has been steadily increasing since the late 1980s,” said E. Douglas Varney, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS). “Suicide is a serious public health problem and a subject people are still very hesitant to talk about. These grant awards will allow us to address this threat and save lives.” 


  1. Adults 25 to 34 year olds: Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death
  2. Youth 10 to 24 years old: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death
  3. Adults 35 to 64 years old: Represent 70% of all suicides in 2010 

“For every death, there are 8 to 10 suicide attempts,” said Melissa Sparks, Director of Crisis Services at TDMHSAS. “Our goal is zero suicides in Tennessee with a focus on reducing suicide attempts.” 

Educating mental health providers statewide is key to preventing suicides in Tennessee. By training more professionals to identify people who may be in crisis and potentially suicidal, there is more opportunity to intervene and save lives. 


“Many people contemplating suicide are dealing with a lot of untreated depression,” said Sparks. “We look to collaborate with medical professionals across the state, to connect those in crisis with behavioral health services and get them the help they need.” 

Tennessee, New York, New Mexico and Oklahoma are the only four states to receive a federal grant for adult suicide prevention. 

For help in Tennessee, call the 24/7 REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

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