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J Health Hum Serv Adm. 2004 Fall;27(2):123-41.

Suicide prevention: a vital national public health issue.

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Department of Psychiatry, Emory University School of Medicine, USA.


Suicide continues to be a major public health problem in the United States, with 30,000 deaths per year. The suicide rate, which hovers around 10-12/100,000, has remained virtually unchanged over the past three decades. In 1999 the Surgeon General proposed a national plan to serve as a roadmap toward developing a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy. The key features of this plan were encapsulated in the acronym AIM, Awareness, Intervention and Methodology, to define the relevant components of a national strategy. This refers to increasing public awareness of the problem of mental illness and suicide, providing increased access to treatment and prevention resources and developing improved research methodologies. Despite the overall numbers, suicide is a low base-rate event, which makes studying intervention and prevention strategies very difficult, as very large subject samples are required for meaningful outcome assessments. Suicide prevention and prevention research have received substantially fewer public resources than many other medical conditions, and apparent public health risks such as bioterrorism. It is for this reason that a comprehensive, national public health based suicide prevention program is required.

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