NASHUA — Two weeks after a city police captain took his own life, officials have announced the formation of a suicide prevention task force.
The task force will be charged with developing a plan to address the increase in suicide deaths.
“We are working to create a mental health task force to address the issue of suicide prevention and other mental health issues,” Mayor Jim Donchess told aldermen on Tuesday.
The city’s Division of Public Health and Community Services will be working with community healthcare providers to offer education and help identify the signs of suicide and depression, according to a release.
The task force is designed to educate the community about the signs of depression and the risks of suicide, and to develop a plan to decrease the stigma around suicide.
Members of the task force will include representatives from the police department, fire department, Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, Interfaith Council, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and the National Alliance on Mental Health.
Alderman Tom Lopez thanked the mayor for his leadership in forming the task force.
“I think we are unintentionally tone-deaf when we laud our city’s progress in being top 100 best places to live in this region or that, when there are people in our neighborhoods — our friends, our family — that are struggling with the will,” said Lopez.
He stressed that this is not unique to Nashua, but rather a regional issue that needs to be studied.
Nashua can set a good example for other communities and lead the way, through the public health sector, to address suicide issues, according to Lopez.
In addition to the task force, mental health training will also be offered by the city. The first public training session will take place at 6 p.m. Oct. 21 at Nashua City Hall.
“In 2017, 20 out of every 100,000 Hillsborough County residents died by suicide,” states a release, adding 10 out of every 100,000 New Hampshire residents and 14 out of every 100,000 people nationwide died by suicide in 2017.
According to the release, the suicide death rate in America has increased 33 percent from 1999 to 2017.
“We hope that shifting the culture and starting the conversation about suicide encourages people to talk more openly, increase awareness and, ultimately, curb the trend,” Donchess said in a statement.Earlier this month, a 20-year veteran of the Nashua Police Department, Jon Lehto, committed suicide while visiting Seattle.