National suicide prevention strategy released

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention on Sept. 10 released a strategy to reduce the number of suicides in the United States.

The release came on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a national strategy in September 2010.

The alliance, working with the U.S. Surgeon General and other agencies, then developed a report that details 13 goals and 60 objectives to accomplish over the next 10 years.

Immediate goals include:

• Reduce the number of suicides by integrating suicide prevention into health care policies.

• Encourage the transformation of health care systems to prevent suicide.

• Changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention.

• Improving the quality of data on suicidal behaviors to develop increasingly effective prevention efforts.

Along with the strategy comes $55.6 million in new grants for national, state, tribal, campus and community suicide prevention programs under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act and the Affordable Care Act.

“Our message today is one of hope,” Sebelius said in a statement from the White House. “The national strategy will bring together the nation’s resources, both public and private, in an organized effort to provide life saving services and improve the ability of individuals, friends and family members to recognize the warning signs of despair and take action to save lives.”

Gordon Smith, the former U.S. senator from Oregon who co-chairs the alliance, said, “By implementing this plan, we will engage diverse sectors of our communities, from health care systems and policy-makers to the media and public. It will take all of our efforts to win this fight against suicide that touches so many American lives.”

Army Secretary McHugh, in the news release, focused on suicide in the military community, calling it “one of the most challenging issues we face.

He said, “In the Army, suicide prevention requires soldiers to look out for fellow soldiers. We must foster an environment that encourages people in need to seek help and be supported.”

According to the health department, an average of 100 American deaths each day are due to suicide – more than double the average number of homicides.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that more that 8 million adults in the United States had serious thoughts of suicide within the past 12 months.

Resources

If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 800-273-8255.

To learn more about suicide prevention, visit www.sprc.org.