While Massachusetts has among the lowest rates of suicide deaths in the United States, their frequency has been increasing in recent years, prompting health and community groups to search for new strategies for prevention and education.

The Berkshire Eagle reports Dr. Brenda Butler, a clinical psychologist for Berkshire Health Systems and medical director for The Brien Center's Child and Adolescent Services Division, said there has been "two decades of efforts but minimal effects on reducing rates. Youth, in particular, has been on the rise."

In 2015, according to the state Department of Public Health, there were 631 confirmed suicides in Massachusetts — more than twice the number of motor vehicle traffic-related deaths and four times higher than homicides. Even greater was the number of self-injuries, with 11,147 hospital discharges and emergency department visits reported for nonfatal self-inflicted injuries that year.

The 2015 data was publicly released in fall 2017, and it should be noted that suicide statistics often are considered estimates. Many attempts go unreported, and some deaths cannot always be clearly determined to be suicides.

A total of 401 Massachusetts youths ages 10 to 24 were lost to suicide from 2011 to 2015.

In response, some staff members at Berkshire Medical Center and Heywood Hospital in Gardner are involved in their third year of research and programming developed under their award of a five-year Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Grant funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and state Department of Public Health.

It starts by training hospital staff to look for warning signs of suicide risk and to ask follow-up questions to see if patients might need more care. Berkshire Medical Center started by training its emergency department staff to conduct screenings... since the statistics show an increasing number of youths arriving there with self-harm and suicide-attempt injuries.

It starts by training hospital staff to look for warning signs of suicide risk and to ask follow-up questions to see if patients might need more care. Berkshire Medical Center started by training its emergency department staff to conduct screenings since the statistics show an increasing number of youths arriving there with self-harm and suicide-attempt injuries.