Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force shapes up
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the initial report of Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force based on statewide listening sessions held throughout fall 2019.
Governor Wolf announced the statewide task force in May of 2019 with the goal of developing a four-year plan to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania.
The work of the Suicide Prevention Task Force is a complement to 'Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters' initiative.
“My administration is committed to developing a comprehensive suicide prevention plan that will save precious lives, support people in crisis, and help loved ones of attempt survivors and those we’ve lost,” Gov. Wolf said. “We’ve taken a giant first step toward that goal by opening this dialogue with Pennsylvanians across the commonwealth, and I want to thank the members of the Suicide Prevention Task Force for their hard work and all who shared their stories, insights, and experiences at a listening session last year.”
Informed by the testimonies and suggestions of people affected by suicide, mental health professionals, and other stakeholders from across the commonwealth, the report will be used to develop a strategy of significantly reducing the number of suicides in Pennsylvania
More than 800 people attended the public listening sessions.
Community members, state and local officials, representatives from county suicide prevention organizations, and stakeholders from other sectors of government gave their input.
As a result of these sessions, the Suicide Prevention Task Force identified the following key themes to inform the four-year suicide prevention strategy:
• Stigma associated with mental health, suicide, and suicide attempts can affect the likelihood of individuals seeking help or continuing treatment, and how policymakers make decisions that affect mental health systems.
• Resources needed to elevate mental health as a public health issue, incentivize the integration of physical and behavioral health, and improve suicide prevention resources at the local level.
• Barriers to treatment, such as cost and insurance gaps.
• Access to more detailed suicide and suicide-attempt data to help policymakers make effective, meaningful decisions.
• Issues within the mental-health workforce, such as pay and barriers to entry, to improve quality of care.
• With proper resources, Pennsylvania’s schools and educators are uniquely positioned to save lives with suicide prevention strategies and resources.
• The Legislature could take direct action to prevent suicides through the passage of a Red Flag law, to provide a means to remove firearms from someone at risk for suicide or safe storage requirements for firearms.
According to a 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
In Pennsylvania alone, 2,023 individuals died by suicide in 2017.
The task force anticipates releasing a comprehensive four-year statewide suicide prevention plan in the first quarter of 2020 that will be available for a public comment period.
To read the task force’s initial report, click here.