Lawrence-based Headquarters Counseling Center recently received a federal three-year, $480,000 annual grant to help reduce suicide attempts and deaths among Kansans age 24 and younger.
The grant will be used to expand prevention activities across the state and to set up a resource center and website.
“The bottom line is we want more people to know what to do when somebody is at risk of suicide,” said Headquarters director Marcia Epstein. “This grant will save lives.”
Every day, at least one Kansan dies by suicide.
It is the second-leading cause of death among Kansans between the ages of 15 and 24, while nationally suicide ranks third in that group.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, 234 suicide deaths occurred in that age range between 2007 and 2010; six of them were in Douglas County.
Epstein, who also serves as co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Subcommittee of the Governor’s Mental Health Services Planning Council, said the state has had no resources — funding or staff — dedicated to suicide prevention until now.
She said the grant will be used to hire staff, to provide mini-grants for community projects and to expand the number of phone lines and counselors answering the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-8255 — at Headquarters Counseling. The grant also will be used to provide Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, or ASIST, which is used by the Kansas National Guard. It helps people know how to identify the warning signs and how to get people connected with the supports they need.
“It’s a very interactive course that’s been shown to get people to actually intervene in their community, not just know that suicide is a problem but to actually do something when they encounter somebody who is at risk of suicide,” Epstein said.
Headquarters is one of 23 state and tribal organizations to receive the Garrett Lee Smith and Tribal Suicide Prevention grant this year. The grant is funded through the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. Garrett was a son of U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, of Oregon, and in 2003, he died by suicide the day before his 22nd birthday.
Epstein said it was the senator’s passion to reach out to the younger population, but she said the statewide programming will have applications for all ages.
Headquarters may only use the federal grant for new statewide programming, so the 42-year-old nonprofit agency, which has an annual budget of about $200,000, will continue to rely on community donations and local grants for its services, which range from bereavement support groups to children’s safety programs. It has a 24-hour hotline that provides counseling services.
“Headquarters is much more than suicide prevention counseling, but this grant will strengthen our agency in many ways because it’s a huge opportunity and it’s a huge honor,” Epstein said.
Marcia Epstein, director of Headquarters Counseling Center in Lawrence, says you can make a difference when someone shows signs of feeling suicidal. Here’s how:
• Listen and show you care.
• Ask the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
• For teens, find a trusted adult to help you both.
• For adults, find someone to be with the person and someone trained in suicide prevention to help.
• Eliminate access to firearms, large amounts of medications and other dangers.
• Never keep a secret about suicide.
• Know that suicide is never someone else’s fault.
Where to get help:
• Headquarters Counseling Center’s 24-hour service — 785-841-2345.
• National Suicide Prevention Life-Line — 800-273-8255.
• Bert Nash’s 24-hour service — 785-843-9192.
• Lawrence Memorial Hospital emergency room — 785-505-6100.