Tandra Rutledge Director of business development

The Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance played host a conference last week on reducing the nation’s suicide rate by 25 percent by 2025 at the Loyola Health Services Campus, 2160 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood, with some saying it was the first of its kind. 

The daylong conference, which convened national experts in suicide prevention, was the result of a collaboration between Riveredge Hospital in Forest Park, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing.

The summit “is the first of its kind in the nation to focus on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Project 2025 that has the goal of reducing the suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025,” said Tandra Rutledge, Riveredge’s director of business development.

Steve Moore, the co-chair of both the Illinois Suicide Prevention Alliance and the AFSP’s Illinois chapter, said that the organization has identified four general areas with the most potential to reduce the suicide rate: large healthcare systems, emergency departments, corrections systems and firearm safety.

“Personnel in healthcare organizations, emergency departments and corrections systems have direct contact with people with a high risk of suicide,” Moore explained in a statement. “A comprehensive approach to suicide prevention in each of these settings can save lives.”

During a reception held in Oak Park the day before the Sept. 21 summit, Moore said that the unique focus of the summit was Rutledge’s idea.

“After I told her about those four areas, Tandra immediately said, ‘Well that’s our theme,'” Moore said, recalling a conversation with Rutledge months before the summit. “And Tandra organized a conference around it.”

The conference included close to a dozen speakers and panelists, such as David W. Baker, the executive vice president for Healthcare Quality Evaluation at the Joint Commission; Leslie Zun, president of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry; and Brent Gibson, chief health officer for the National Commission on Correctional Health Care; and Nneka Tapia, Psy.D., former Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections.

“This conference has really taken on a national flavor, as well as being a local Illinois conference,” said Michael Rosenoff, the senior director of Project 2025, during the Sept. 20 reception.

“We know that suicide is a serious health problem in this nation,” Rutledge said during the reception. “Millions of people die every year by suicide and the impact of that loss is felt across the country.”

Rutledge referenced data showing that an average of 1,400 people each year in Illinois die by suicide. 

“But wait,” she said. “There is hope. A recent Harris poll conducted on behalf of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that 94 percent of Americans believe that suicide can be prevented.”

Rutledge said that “equally impressive” is that 94 percent of those individuals interviewed for the poll said that they would take action if “someone close to them were showing signs of suicide.”

That statistic, she said, “is encouraging for each one of us,” before urging those at the reception to “figure out ways that you can impact suicide and save lives.

“We owe it to the people who die by suicide, the loved ones left behind by suicide, the individuals having daily thoughts of suicide and those who attempt suicide. We can and we must do better.”

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com