Advocates Visit New York State Capitol to Urge Lawmakers to Support Youth Suicide Prevention

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For media requests: Sarah Clark, Western New York Area Director, sclark@afsp.org, (585) 202-2783

ALBANY, NY (MAY 19, 2016) – In New York, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34. On Monday, May 23, from 10 am to 4 pm, volunteers with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention from across the state of New York will visit the state capitol to meet with lawmakers to encourage them to prioritize suicide prevention – especially prevention within secondary schools, colleges, and universities. Assemblymember John McDonald will also be addressing the group.

“More young people die by suicide than from cancer, homicide, heart disease, pneumonia, or diabetes. We need to make sure our young people are getting the education they need about mental health and suicide, and that our teachers are given the training and education so that can better help, and support our young people,” said Sarah Clark, AFSP Western NY area director.

The volunteers will be asking state legislators to support four major pieces of legislation that are making their way through the New York legislative process.

Provide Suicide Prevention Educational Materials for Educators (S3561[Espaillat]/A6187[Ortiz])

Requires that materials for educators regarding suicide prevention and signs of depression in youth be provided and published online by the commissioner of the office of mental health, including materials regarding symptoms of depression, how depression manifests in different cultures, suicide warning signs, appropriate actions to take if suicide risk is suspected, and educational websites regarding youth suicide prevention.

Mental Health First Aid for Educators in Training (S6753[Hamilton]/A9060[Crespo])

Directs the commissioner of education to require teachers’ colleges to provide a course of instruction in mental health first aid prior to each student’s graduation; defines “mental health first aid” as the recognition of common mental illnesses and chemical dependence disorders, the safe de-escalation of crisis situations, and the initiation of timely referral of appropriate students to mental health and chemical dependency resources within the community.

Safely Educate Students Regarding Suicide Prevention (S4261[Espaillat]/A3384[McDonald])

Requires the office of mental health and the state education department to identify or develop and post online materials for educators that may be used to educate students regarding suicide prevention and signs of depression; would allow instruction regarding suicide prevention to be included in the health education curriculum for secondary school students.

Suicide Prevention on College Campuses (S2373[Parker]/A3639[Robinson])

  • Establishes the collegiate suicide prevention program, which would require colleges to inform incoming students about suicide prevention measures through programs like workshops, film presentations, etc. Information disseminated through the program must include available mental health services, how to identify persons at risk, college procedures for handling suicide attempts, availability of counseling and other support services, common circumstances relating to suicide on college campuses, and how the college supports students at risk.
  • Requires colleges to annually report on their compliance with the collegiate suicide prevention program with the commissioner; receipt of state aid or assistance would be dependent on program compliance.
  • Requires colleges to appoint an advisory committee on mental health to review current campus mental health policies and procedures, make recommendations for improvement, and report annually to the college president or chief administrative advisor.
  • Requires health care professionals employed by or affiliated with the college to report to the college president or chief administrative officer when they believe a student is potentially at risk for suicide.

The advocates are part of a larger national contingent of AFSP volunteers who will be visiting various state capitols across the United States in spring 2016 to bring best practices in mental health and suicide prevention to state legislators and their staff. Advocates for this visit are coming from AFSP chapters including: AFSP New York City, AFSP Westchester, AFSP New York Long Island, AFSP Capital Region New York, AFSP South Central New York, AFSP Central New York, AFSP Western New York, and AFSP Hudson Valley.

On average, one person dies by suicide every five hours in the state of New York. Suicide cost New York a total of $1.8 billion of combined lifetime medical and work loss cost in 2010, or an average of $1.1 million per suicide death. More than twice as many people die by suicide in New York annually as by homicide, and suicide is the 12th leading cause of death overall in New York.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.