Statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force in Pa. will develop state's suicide prevention plan

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force will be formed to develop the state's suicide prevention plan, a long-term strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania, and let Pennsylvanians in crisis know their lives are valuable and help is available, Governor Tom Wolf said Wednesday.

The announcement was made by various state agencies that will be represented on the task force, Rep. Mike Schlossberg, Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, and Prevent Suicide PA.

The Suicide Prevention Task Force will merge siloed efforts into one, statewide suicide prevention plan informed by the perspectives and experiences of various state agencies, including in the departments of Aging, Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, Military and Veterans Affairs, Education, Corrections, and Transportation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

The task force will hold its first monthly meeting in the next few weeks with members appointed by agency cabinet secretaries.

The task force will work with the General Assembly, partners in suicide prevention, and other stakeholders to develop a new suicide prevention plan that takes recent data from the CDC, recent coverage around high-profile suicides, and recommendations related to mental health set by Pennsylvania's School Safety Task Force.

Long-term policy solutions and strategies will be developed to increase awareness of resources for people in crisis or considering suicide, reduce the stigma associated with suicide and mental illnesses, and reduce the rate of suicide in Pennsylvania.

According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and is one of only three that are on the rise. In Pennsylvania, suicide rates have increased by 34 percent since 1999.

The CDC reports that problems with relationships, substance use, physical health conditions, a job or financial situation, and the legal system or another crisis most often contribute to suicide, and more than 50 percent of people who die by suicide do not have a known mental health condition.

The Department of Human Services' Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services receives funding through the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to support suicide prevention efforts around the commonwealth.

Suicide prevention plans developed in support of these efforts have historically been targeted specifically toward young adults, school-aged children and older adults.

If you or someone you love is in crisis or you are considering harming yourself, free help is available 24/7 through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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