Magellan’s commitment to suicide prevention, for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and beyond

By Varun Choudhary and Greg Dicharry

The impacts of suicide on population subsets

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US.[1] It has become the hidden epidemic in our society that is spreading with the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics show certain populations are more vulnerable than others. While a recent study shows that 11% of adults seriously contemplated suicide in June 2020, the same was disproportionately reported by young people aged 18 to 24 (26%), Hispanic people (19%), Black people (15%), unpaid caregivers for adults (31%) and essential workers (22%).[2]

Medical professionals have historically been at higher risk for suicide than those in most other professions.[3] Over 400 physicians a year commit suicide, yet the cause for such tragedy is not addressed.[4] A recent example was the suicide of Dr. Lorna Breen, the 49-year-old medical director of an emergency department in New York, who felt like she was drowning amid trying to save lives during the COVID pandemic. She had no history of mental illness and was considered an exemplary physician before succumbing to trauma of witnessing so much death.

Suicide has also been a silent killer within our military for several years, as troops dealing with trauma are unable to get the care they need. This was the case with the recent suicide of 34-year-old Master Sergeant Andrew Christian Marckesano, who had served six full tours in Afghanistan and was nicknamed the real “Captain America.” We must take a proactive approach to suicide prevention so we can help these heroes before they become tragic statistics.

Magellan’s approach to suicide prevention

Magellan is a national leader in suicide prevention and is addressing this health crisis that is devastating so many individuals, families and communities. We believe the first and foremost action that must be taken is to destigmatize the need to ask for help. There is still an ingrained culture in medicine and the military, as examples, that it is a weakness to address mental health needs. We need to build a culture of acceptance and promote the concept that reaching out is a strength, not a weakness. Changing this paradigm will take the effort of many mental health agencies and organizations.

Magellan is here to lead the initiative and use our expertise to bring awareness and training through a preventive model that pushes a zero-suicide approach. We were very successful in launching this campaign in Maricopa County, Arizona, and received international recognition for its effectiveness in reducing suicide. We are working with other organizations to promote this approach, so communities are aware of the signs and warnings of potential suicide, know how to engage suicidal individuals and are able to address the acute mental health needs of these individuals before they escalate.

In recent years, we have had the privilege of hosting a series of suicide prevention summits in Pennsylvania, Florida and Idaho. These events have brought together over 1,000 local and national leaders to exchange ideas, share successes and discuss solutions around the challenges we face together in addressing this crisis in our communities. In addition to this work, Magellan regularly supports local suicide prevention efforts in communities we serve, including sponsoring and participating in annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walks around the country.

The Hope Rising for Suicide Prevention virtual summit, September 26, 2020

Most recently, we have established an internal suicide prevention innovations team to develop and implement a plan to enhance our suicide prevention efforts to create more awareness, training opportunities and support for our employees, members, providers, customers and the communities we serve.

Magellan is officially launching the initiative this month for National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with the Hope Rising for Suicide Prevention virtual summit. This event is being planned and hosted in partnership with the nation’s leading suicide prevention organizations, including the National Suicide Prevention LifelineLivingWorks, American Association of SuicidologyZero Suicide Institute, and numerous other national and international suicide prevention and mental wellness experts, lived experience advocates and people new to suicide prevention to share inspiration, information, wellness techniques and best practices.

This uplifting virtual event will empower attendees with the motivation, skills and resources needed to positively impact suicide prevention efforts in their communities.

Hope Rising for Suicide Prevention is just the beginning, as Magellan continues to create and support impactful suicide prevention initiatives that will help people find the hope and help they need to stay alive and thrive.

For more information about this and other Magellan events during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, suicide prevention downloadable materials and more free resources, visit our suicide prevention website.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm.

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/healthcare-workers-suicide-covid-19#3

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6526882/

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