February 28, 2019 

Media Contact:
Scott L. Peterson, Director of Communications, Office of Public Information, 202-277-9412

COLUMBIA, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Howard County Council Chair Christiana Mercer Rigby today announced “It’s OK To Ask,” a plan developed by the Howard County Health Department to reduce youth suicide. The county faces a public health emergency, as suicide was the leading cause of death for youth ages 15-19 in Howard County between 2014-2016. Using proven approaches that reduce stigma and engage the community, this campaign will utilize evidence-based, multi-level strategies to bring prevention to the forefront and save lives. The plan, accompanied by an “It’s OK to Ask” outreach campaign, encourages both youth and adults to talk openly about suicide and suicide prevention. Video of the launch event can be found here. Photos from the event can be found here. Campaign materials are available at http://teenhealthmatters.org/get-help-now/mental-health/ or by contacting the Health Department Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator at 410-313-6240. 

“It is imperative that we have these resources in place and readily available to every student and family in our community,” said Ball. “We have a shared responsibility to eliminate the stigma associated with speaking up, so that anyone who needs help feels comfortable asking for it. This is an evidence-based plan worthy of support because it will grow the conversation and, most importantly, save lives.”

“I’m deeply saddened by the fact that youth suicide remains one of the greatest national epidemics facing young people in the United States,” said Mercer Rigby. “I’m grateful for the leadership of our County Executive Dr. Ball and our Howard County Health Department in developing this suicide prevention campaign.  The time to act is now, and our children are counting on us.”

“We need to create a culture that is smart about mental health,” said Kathrin Olbrich of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We as a community can support each other.”  

“We have created a five pillar, evidence-based plan to address youth suicide,” said Health Officer, Dr. Maura J. Rossman. The pillars of the plan are: increasing awareness and reducing stigma, prevention, early identification and intervention, referral to treatment and postvention. “Working with partners and using the strategies and activities that accompany the five pillars of our program, our goal is to eliminate both youth suicide attempts and suicide deaths in our county” said Dr. Rossman.

Health Department staff will be working in the community to provide specialized presentations and training for those who would like to bring Youth Suicide Prevention Program components to their organizations and groups.  A Teen Mental Health Ambassador program will also be implemented in high schools throughout the county. 



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