Tackling suicide prevention with The Defensive Line and Intermountain Healthcare

Suicide is a major problem, especially in Nevada, where the state ranks 9e in the country for suicide deaths. It is also the 9e leading cause of death in Nevada and the second leading cause of death for children ages 10-24 nationally. These statistics were collected by the AFSP.

Intermountain Healthcare has made suicide prevention one of the primary community health goals. This includes the use of mental health integration. Mental health has a strong effect on physical health – and vice versa. Mental Health Integration (MHI) is an approach to health care that focuses on both. A team, led by your doctor, takes care of your mental and physical health needs. And it all happens right in your doctor’s office.

Intermountain has also worked to educate on QPR training – interview, persuade, refer for suicide risk. Most of the time, it is a question of putting time between the crisis and the person at risk. Like limiting access to lethal means such as firearms and dangerous drugs. In Nevada, 68% of gun deaths were suicides. 62% of all suicides are committed by firearm.

About the defensive line

Solomon Thomas is a defensive lineman who played for the San Francisco 49ers, was a fan favorite here for the Las Vegas Raiders last season, and recently signed with the New York Jets. Off the pitch, Solomon and his parents, Chris and Martha, endured unimaginable grief when Solomon’s big sister, Ella, died by suicide.

Solomon and his parents have dedicated their lives to sharing Ella’s story and turning their pain into purpose. Following their loss, they formed The Defensive Line with a mission: to end the epidemic of youth suicide, especially young people of color, by transforming the way we communicate and connect about mental health.

The defensive line provides suicide prevention training in Las Vegas and nationally to educators, coaches and other youth leaders, as well as outreach and education efforts by sharing their story and the stories of others people who have experienced mental health, mental illness, or survived or lost someone to suicide. Their efforts include:

  • Educate adults about youth suicide and their unique opportunities for connection and support with the students in their care.
  • Increase language and conversation skills to talk about suicide and mental health.
  • Create safe places for young people to be honest and vulnerable with the adults who serve them.
  • Expand partnership approaches within schools to better systematically prevent suicide and improve access to resources.

Chris Thomas said he hopes to get this message out to vulnerable populations, especially all young people of color among whom suicide rates are rising at an alarming rate. According to the CDC, suicides of young black people are increasing twice as fast as other ethnic groups. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are also seeing an increase in suicides at 2.5 times the rate.

The defensive line is working to get into schools, teams and other areas that can help spread the message of hope and how adults support the mental health of young people in their care.

What can you do?

Take action If you’re worried about someone, talk to family and friends about the stressors and check in on them as well. Make sure you have secured firearms or medications safely and out of the reach of an at-risk person Please contact your family doctor, therapist if you need mental health resources.

Please call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741 or reach them at #988. The Trevor Project offers support for LGBTQ+ youth.