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Tennessee among highest in suicide rate
Kandy Templeton is senior vice president of crisis services for Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System.
Dealing with phone-in threats of suicide for a swath of Tennessee counties is a day-to-day chore for a small platoon of professionals charged with what many times is an overwhelming duty to save as many lives as possible.“Their job is not an easy one,” says Kandy Templeton, senior vice president of crisis services for Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System, describing the responsibilities of those who answer calls in a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week crisis call center.Tennessee’s current suicide rate, shown for the year 2013 (the most recent year in which statistics are available) is 15.7 deaths per 100,000 residents. It is the highest suicide rate the state has reported over the past five years and Tennessee continues to be listed among the nation’s leading states with highest suicide rates. The national average for suicides is 13 per 100,000.Data for the most recent fiscal year shows Volunteer’s Crisis Call Center, which is stationed in Chattanooga and provides 24-hour service for the entire region including Warren County, confirms there were 14,750 crisis face-to-face assessments during the period, most of which began with a telephone call asking for help.Templeton says the number of crisis cases for this period represents an increase of 1,663 cases since fiscal year 2013-14.The 33-year veteran of working as a mental health professional makes the point the numbers substantiate more people are seeking help each year.“Those individuals who have thoughts of harming themselves, feeling hopeless, helpless, and cannot not find resolution for their current state of mind is a growing concern and challenge for our society,” said Templeton.Explaining the procedure from the time a call is received at the center she said demographics and basic information are collected by a staff member from the caller.