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Governor announces launch of Suicide Prevention Task Force

Posted 19 November 2017 at 3:16 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced the formation of the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force that includes leaders from state agencies, local governments, not-for-profit groups, and other recognized experts in suicide prevention. The creation of the Task Force was first announced in Governor Cuomo’s 2017 State of the State.

“The rise in the number of suicides nationwide is unacceptable, and New York will continue to make suicide awareness and prevention a top priority until we put an end to this epidemic,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Suicide Prevention Task Force will focus on high-risk communities and groups to build on our efforts to address this challenge, and help build a stronger, healthier New York for all.”

The Task Force will be co-chaired by Christopher Tavella, PhD, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Peter Wyman, PhD, Professor Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. A full list of Task Force members can be found by clicking here.

Task Force members will examine and evaluate current suicide prevention programs services, and policies. Members will then make recommendations to increase access, awareness, and support for children, adolescents and adults in need of assistance. The Task Force will also explore methods to address and prevent bullying and cyber-bullying, which negatively impact an individual’s mental health and in some cases have caused a number of children and young adults to take their own lives.

A Focus on High Risk Groups

The Task Force will focus on suicide prevention targeting high-risk demographic groups and special populations, including members of the LGBT community, veterans, individuals with mental illness, and individuals struggling with alcohol and drug use. Veterans in New York State represent more than 15 percent of suicides, while nationally, LGBT adolescents are four times more likely to have attempted suicide than their non-LGBT peers.

Other high risk populations include middle-aged men and Latina adolescents.

New York has the fifth largest total number of suicides in the nation, with 1,652 in 2015, and it is estimated that for every suicide death there are 25 non-fatal attempts. In 2014, there were more than 21,000 hospitalizations and emergency department visits for self-inflicted injuries in New York State, and adolescents made up a disproportionately high number of these injuries.

The formation of this Task Force makes good on the Governor’s promise to prioritize suicide prevention and address the need for increased awareness of support services in every community across the state.

Ann Marie T. Sullivan, M.D., Commissioner of the NYS Office of Mental Health, said, “With a problem as complex as suicide, it is critical to have a well-coordinated, collective effort that includes our health and behavioral healthcare systems, as well as our schools, communities and other stakeholders. The Governor’s Task Force will help us to collaborate and share the best available information and practices.”

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, “The sad reality is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people and it is a tragedy that reverberates throughout the entire community. Through our continuing partnership with the Office of Mental Health and now with the Suicide Prevention Task Force, we can—and have to—reduce the number of suicides and promote mental health across the state.”

State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “Our Troopers witness the heartbreak and devastation left behind when a person chooses to take their own life. We are committed to working with our task force partners to examine the causes and find solutions that will help support those who are in need of assistance.”

Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “Sadly, for many people, suicide and substance use disorders are linked, and the approach to their care needs to reflect this reality. The NYS Suicide Prevention Task Force will strengthen our ability to provide the comprehensive care that vulnerable New Yorkers need.”

OMH’s Suicide Prevention Office was created in 2014 to coordinate all OMH-sponsored suicide prevention activities. The SPO also funds the Suicide Prevention Center of New York, which provides free or low-cost educational and training sessions to individuals, agencies, schools and community groups to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of suicide in New York. More information is available by clicking here.

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