As is the case in the United States as a whole, suicide rates are on the rise in Louisiana.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in Louisiana, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for ages 10-14, the third-leading cause of death for ages 15-34, the fourth-leading cause of death for ages 35-44, the sixth-leading cause of death for ages 45-54, the 10th-leading cause of death for ages 55-64, and the 16th-leading cause of death for age 65 and older. In total, suicide was responsible for 722 deaths in Louisiana in 2017. This figure puts the suicide rate in Louisiana at 15.26% per 100,000 people, which is above the national average of 13.26%.
To put this data into perspective, this means that, on average, one person dies every 12 hours from suicide in Louisiana.
The High Cost of Tragedy
The lack of state funding for suicide prevention in Louisiana has been cited as a key factor in the state’s growing suicide rates. And as funding cuts continue, programs designed to prevent youth suicide and provide crisis response services and counseling are no longer in operation.
It is clear that suicide prevention efforts are becoming increasingly rare in the workplace, as Louisiana’s Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) will now only provide postvention services to state workforce organizations when an employee has already died from suicide. The trainings are free, but organizations must purchase their own training materials.
Critics of Louisiana’s decisions to defund behavioral health and preventative education programs reference the high cost of suicide in the state, making an economic argument for reinstating funds to protect these initiatives.
In places like Rapides Parish where the suicide rate is 11.27%, the fiscal impact of suicide must be taken into account when allocating resources. Recent reports have found that in 2010 each suicide cost the state of Louisiana an average of $1,213,626 when considering the combined lifetime medical and work loss each death represents. And when examining the total number of deaths from suicide in 2010, that figure adds up to a total of $675,990,000 in costs for Louisiana over time.
So while services for mental health appear to be on the decline in Louisiana, there are some state mandates which provide funds for training tools and resources for Louisianans along with special programming for some who work in the public sector including:
- T.A.R., The Louisiana Plan for Youth Suicide Prevention includes four key dimensions: Suicide Prevention for All Louisianans, Training and Education, Awareness and Advocacy, and Research and Resources. A free copy is available here.
- Louisiana law (§§37:24-27) requires the Department of Health and Hospitals to offer certified, licensed, or registered mental health counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, medical psychologists, nurses, physicians’ assistants, and addiction counselors access to an online list of training programs in suicide assessment, intervention, treatment, and management. This list can be found at http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/page/2082.
- Louisiana law (§437.1, also known as the Jason Flatt Act) requires that all Louisiana public school teachers, school counselors, principals, and administrators to participate in at least 2 hours of in-service training on suicide prevention each year.
Protecting young people from suicide is a complex challenge that requires continued vigilance and expanded access to effective treatment. If you fear that someone in your life is at risk for suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).