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Mental Health Advocates to Visit Columbia

1 May 2018 — 3 min read


Logo for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Finding Connection Through Vulnerability: AFSP’s Overnight Walk

COLUMBIA, SC (May 1, 2018) – Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and in South Carolina. On Wednesday May 2, advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will partner with representatives from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) SC, Mental Health America (MHA) of SC, and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health to hold a press conference urging lawmakers to continue to improve mental health across the state. The press conference will take place on the South Lawn/Steps of the State House at 11:00 am.

“We appreciate the support from the legislature in passing the Jason Flatt Act in 2012, and from the SC Department of Mental Health in their collaborative efforts to address suicide prevention across the state with groups like AFSP-SC, MHA of SC, and NAMI-SC. We look forward to continuing this work to make South Carolina the gold standard for state suicide prevention efforts nationwide,” said Tom Robinson, Field Ambassador and Public Policy Chair for the AFSP-South Carolina Chapter.

Improvements in several key areas would play a vital role in preventing suicide and improving mental health statewide:

Training for Health Care Professionals in Suicide Assessment, Treatment, and Management

Health professionals and those in training regularly encounter patients who struggle with their mental health and may be suicidal, and most people who die by suicide have contact with a health professional within a year prior to their death. There is an opportunity for health professionals to assess their patients for suicide risk and either refer for or intervene with suicide-specific treatment. However, many health professionals are unprepared and untrained to assess, treat, and manage suicidal behavior as this is not a routine part of their education or training. Regular training in suicide risk assessment, treatment, and management will help to ensure that health professionals maintain competency and consistency when treating their most vulnerable patients.

Comprehensive K-12 School Policies & Procedures

Through the Jason Flatt Act, adopted in 2012, middle and high school personnel are required to receive two hours of training every five years. Beyond this training requirement, very few schools have policies in place to address suicide prevention, intervention, or postvention. School personnel must be supported by clear policies and procedures, which serve as an easily-accessible roadmap, eliminate confusion over educator roles and the referral process, and equip educators with the tools to respond safely when a suicide does occur in the school community. With intervention and postvention policies in place, preventive approaches such as staff training will be even more likely to prevent suicide.

Mental Health Parity Enforcement and Reporting

Assessment and treatment for mental health conditions can save lives, but only if individuals at risk can afford to obtain this care. The Federal Parity Law requires insurers and health plans to cover mental health and addiction care no more restrictively than they do for other medical care. Existing state parity laws only apply to some large group plans; small group plans and individual plans are not included in existing state parity protections. South Carolina must remove barriers to mental health care and coverage by ensuring parity laws are uniformly enforced across the state and across plan types. Policies that require health insurers to submit regular reports on parity compliance increase transparency and enhance enforcement. In addition, many SC residents are unaware of existing parity requirements and what to do should they believe their insurer is in violation of the law. Consumer and provider education efforts and the promotion of information can help to achieve parity implementation.

Suicide in South Carolina

Every eleven hours a SC resident is lost to suicide which ranks as the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34 in the state. For individuals aged 35-54 in South Carolina, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death. In 2016 we lost 815 South Carolina residents to suicide.

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.

Contact: Tom Robinson (904) 616-6086 [email protected]

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