Scott and State Health Officials Urge Self-Care, Check-Ins

Vermont Governor Phil Scott joined top health officials in urging Vermonters to check in with one another and take care of their own mental health. The comments acknowledged Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the every-day role all Vermonters can play in preventing death by suicide.

“There’s no denying that the stress of living through Covid 19 has increased many of the risk factors associated with suicide, including depression, social isolation, financial stress, unemployment, and challenges to mental health,” Gov. Scott said Sept. 14. “Every suicide in Vermont has a terrible impact and we must each do what we can to prevent these losses. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a reminder of all the actions we can take to help those in need.”

Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among Vermonters.

Vermont, like other states across the county, has seen an increase in mental health challenges that is undoubtedly exacerbated by pandemic-related stressors and uncertainties. The state’s most vulnerable populations are most at risk, the governor said. That includes youth, older adults, those who live in rural areas, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ or BIPOC. “I encourage Vermonters to come together to support each other and the people in your lives who may be struggling,” Scott said.  

“Learn more about awareness and how to talk with someone you think may be at risk. Ask if they’re okay and offer to help.”

~ Vermont Governor Phil Scott, at the weekly press conference Sept. 14

Suicide is a Public Health Issue

Secretary Mike Smith of the Agency of Human Services said state agencies have been working closely with community partners over the past several years to expand and improve grassroots supports to prevent suicide. 

“Suicide is not just a mental health issue. It is also a public health issue,” he said at the press conference. “The cause of suicide is complex, and requires a multi-pronged approach to make an impact.” He pointed to the work of the state’s Mental Health Integration Council, which seeks to integrate mental healthcare into the existing system of care “so that every Vermonter is supported by the right level and the right type of care at the right time.” 

Alison Krompf, the deputy health commissioner for mental health, underscored the important role of friends and family in preventing suicide. “We all have a role every day to address this important issue impacting our families and our communities,” she said. “Reaching out, staying connected, and checking in with one another — all of these are ways we can help alleviate the burden often felt by those experiencing suicide ideation. And when you reach out to check in on others, it actually improves your own mental health as well.”

“By addressing the stigma around asking for help, improving our care systems, and listening without judgment, we as Vermonters can come together to build resiliency and support one another.”

~ Alison Krompf, Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health, State of Vermont

Deputy Commissioner Krompf shared a few simple things we can all do. “Learning how to manage stress in healthy ways can make you and the people you care about, as well as your community, stronger,” she said. 

  • Take time to learn about the signs of suicide risk, and what you can do. Resources like #Bethe1to provide simple guidelines for supporting others who are struggling. (See image.)
  • Visit the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center at www.vtspc.org for customized local resources and events.
  • Support your own mental health. Take time to check in with yourself, ask how you’re feeling. Staying in touch with your emotions can help improve mood and lower anxiety.
  • Practice self-care to help you cope with everyday stress and be better prepared for stressful situations.

“We encourage all Vermonters to take the time to inquire as to the well-being of their friends, family and others over the next few days, and to genuinely convey their appreciation for each other in any way that they deem appropriate,” Krompf added. “A simple phone call, a message, can go a long way toward helping someone realize that suicide is not the answer.” 

Read More and Find Resources

Can We Talk About Suicide?” has more on what to say and what not to say.

Talking to Your Children About Mental Health” has guidance from a children’s suicide prevention specialist.

The Role of Wellness in Suicide Prevention” has more on how positive psychiatry can reduce suicide risk. 

Visit the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center for local events and information specific to Vermont.

Find more about suicide prevention, warning signs, and how to help someone in emotional pain at the National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Prevention page.

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In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

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Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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