Congressman Ben McAdams successfully pushed for more support for national health researchers to raise awareness of and strengthen prevention efforts to reduce the tragic number of young people who take their own lives.
Utah has the sixth-highest overall suicide rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The crisis has prompted state leaders to create a youth suicide task force. His amendment passed the House by a vote of 388-30.
“Suicide is not only a mental health problem, it has become a public health crisis,” said McAdams. “We need to do more to understand what puts a young person at risk of tragically ending their life and leaving behind grieving family and friends who wonder what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it.”
McAdams introduced and passed an amendment as part of a bill to fund the Health and Human Services Department to add $2 million to the CDC’s Injury & Prevention Control suicide program. His amendment was applauded by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention which says it receives over 2 million annual calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
“Suicide is preventable. Help us save lives by approving these amendments,” said John Madigan, Chief Public Policy Officer of the foundation, in his letter endorsing the amendment.
McAdams also cosponsored a bipartisan amendment by Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy to invest additional funds in the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention grant program, which funds education and outreach efforts to vulnerable students on college campuses. The program is named after the son of former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. Garrett Lee Smith killed himself in his Utah apartment where he was attending college. He was one day away from his 22nd birthday.
McAdams says the amendment (also approved) increases funding for mental health programming at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which distributes grants to colleges such as the University of Utah, Weber State University, and Snow College, as well as in tribal areas. Grant recipients develop online materials for families of students to increase awareness of risk factors for suicide as well as help reduce the stigma associated with seeking help and care.
“Suicide, like other leading causes of death such as cancer, can be addressed if we take the same public health awareness and prevention approach,” said McAdams.