Participants at Monday morning’s FrankTalks lecture at the Williamson County Enrichment Center presented some rather sobering facts about the health and wellbeing of Tennesseans and, particularly, residents of Williamson County.
The rate of suicides and the continuing use of e-cigarettes are of key concerns, according to Cathy Montgomery, Williamson County Health Department director. She pointed to these issues after the results of the 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment and plans for community health improvement were presented at Franklin Tomorrow’s monthly event.
On the panel with Montgomery were Chelsei Granderson and Briana Gochett of Vanderbilt Medical Center, which provided assistance in the data collection process of the report.
“Mental health and suicide prevention is definitely one of the areas that were chosen as a priority for our community,” Montgomery said before sharing some of the results from the study.
From 2013-18, there were 143 deaths by suicide in Williamson County, with the youngest victim at 14 years old. From information pulled from the area’s 911 call center, results showed that from July 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2019, there were 706 calls for service for threats of death by suicide. There were 284 death by suicide attempts in that time frame, with 77 of them age 25 and under and the youngest at 11. More than half of the attempts were through drug overdose.
To address the crisis, Montgomery said the county’s Health Department is working with a taskforce implemented by Franklin Mayor Ken Moore to educate the community about signs and symptoms of suicide attempts.
“We have to start having these conversations,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got to start reducing the stigma of suicide and having the discussions. One of the things we’re doing is working with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, and its evidence-based practice called Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR training).
“We’re looking to try to certify at least 15 individuals, with some in Spanish, to be certified in this QPR training so we can go to schools, churches, local civic groups to try to have this conversation and to try to raise the awareness of suicide.”
Montgomery said the Health Department will know by the end of the week if it will receive a grant for this initiative.
Another priority that came from the study is the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana among high school and middle school students, with the two products often used in one vaping device.
Brittany Laborde, a health educator with the Williamson County Health Department who was in the audience Monday morning, has visited numerous people in schools, church groups and other locations to get the word out to teachers, parents and students about the dangers of vaping. She visited with 7,500 students throughout the county in October alone.
“There is a misconception that these products are healthier than cigarettes, but they’re all unhealthy in nature,” Laborde said.
She has recently worked with the Franklin Special School District to record a panel that will discuss vaping so parents can access from home. The panel would include a pulmonologist from Williamson Medical Center, a school resource officer and possibly Juvenile Court Judge Sharon Guffee.
“She could talk about what the ramifications are when these children continue to get citations and what impacts it might have on them,” Laborde said.
The bulk of February’s FrankTalks was the presentation on the results found from the recent CHNA. Granderson and Gochett went over the nuances of the study through a slide presentation, pointing out health-related factors such as socioeconomic status, clinical care, health behavior and physical environment, among other findings.