291: Vermont’s New “Facing Suicide” Campaign

Dr. Mark Levine, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, discusses the state’s new Facing Suicide VT campaign, which focuses on encouraging people to discuss the issue of suicide; ASTHO is working with states and territories to highlight...

Dr. Mark Levine, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, discusses the state’s new Facing Suicide VT campaign, which focuses on encouraging people to discuss the issue of suicide; ASTHO is working with states and territories to highlight the importance of partnering with the autism community on emergency preparedness; there is still time to get a seat in this afternoon’s Insight and Inspiration event; and ASTHO is hiring to fill several positions.

Facing Suicide VT Webpage

Health Vermont News Release: Vermont Launches Initiative to Reduce Rising Number of Suicides

ASTHO Blog Article: Partnering with the Autism Community on Inclusive Emergency Preparedness

Insight and Inspiration Webpage

Careers at ASTHO Webpage

ASTHO Webpage: Be in the Know

ASTHO logo


The episode of Public Health Review Morning Edition features discussion of suicide and self-harm. If you or someone you know needs help, please know that you are not alone. Reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or visit 988lifeline.org.



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Wednesday, October 26th, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. 



What do you say to someone who's cutting themselves, who's hurting themselves? Wondering, "Well, how badly are they doing it? Are they gonna kill themselves? Are they crazy? How do I help them?"


It's been more than three years since Kristy Hommel last tried to end her life. Now, she's talking about her struggle as part of a new campaign in Vermont.

Dr. Mark Levine is commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health.


One of our goals was, of course, to make it easier for people to ask for and receive help and feel, you know, more comfortable about talking about suicide, and supporting people who might be struggling.


Matt Wolf appears in another PSA for the Facing Suicide VT campaign.


I think one of the things that we've done in America as a culture—that's really unfortunately gave suicide a lot of power—is not talking about it. We're afraid to talk about it.


Dr. Levine says the first goal of the campaign is to get people talking.


So, first component is really letting people know it's okay to talk about suicide.

I think there's a common myth that if you ask someone if they're thinking about suicide, you're going to actually put the idea in their head. And really, the data shows that the opposite is true. If you acknowledge and ask about suicide, it may actually help someone reduce their feelings of suicidal ideation and increase the ability of them to be socially connected and get the support they need.


Matt Wolf continues to think about two people in his life that were lost to suicide when he was younger.


In order for us to be able to access supports and talk about things comfortably, we sort of have to destigmatize suicide to begin with, make it something we can talk about more comfortably. As humans, we need not only a sense of belonging—like somebody sees me and understands me, I can be ugly and messy and not my best self, and they still love me anyway. And also, a sense of community, like connection to something bigger.


Levine hopes that teaching people how to ask for help or offer help can lead to more lives saved.


I know that it's going to have an impact. That would probably be top of my list, is there's so much to do that can have a favorable impact. And we know about the fact, as I said earlier, that people who do not succeed in a suicide attempt go on to have an incredibly productive and informed life and can help others.

So I really, from a public health standpoint, wanted to make sure we were doing as much as we could to really help this very, very critical public health problem in the state of Vermont.


Kristy Hommel says understanding and education can give people the hope they need to get better.


And I would ask people, you know, in the community to be compassionate and open-minded, maybe less judgmental. I would encourage people to ask questions and to educate themselves.

If you think or suspect or wonder that someone is struggling or suicidal, ask them directly. "Are you thinking about suicide? Because I love you." It's as simple as that.


You can learn more about the Facing Suicide VT campaign using the links in the show notes.


People living with disabilities are more likely to be injured or died during an emergency. ASTHO is working with its members to better serve this community during times of crisis.

O'Keyla Cooper has more.


ASTHO's Annie Evans spoke with Susan Tharpe of the Georgia Department of Public Health about the importance of partnering with the autism community on emergency preparedness.

The conversation covers the unique barriers experienced by people with autism in times of emergency, as well as how authorities can assist communities in emergency preparation. You can view the full article in the link found in the show notes.



Also today, you still have time to get a seat in this afternoon's Insight and Inspiration event. It gets underway at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Don't miss this opportunity to learn the why behind your public health work. Sign up using the link in the show notes.


Finally this morning, ASTHO is hiring to fill several positions. It has job openings for a manager of its leadership institute programs, a director of contracts, and an intern to work on health equity projects.

You can learn more by visiting the ASTHO Careers Webpage. The link is in the show notes.


And don't forget, you can get more news like this every week by joining ASTHO's Public Health Weekly email newsletter list. Like everything else today, you can get the link to join by checking out the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.  

Mark Levine MD

Commissioner of Health, Vermont Department of Health