Tuesday, Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced the Suicide Prevention Act. This bipartisan legislation will provide new resources to help reverse the tragic rise of suicide across the nation.
“It’s well past time that Americans struggling with mental health challenges get the help they need,” said Rep. Chris Stewart. “This is an issue that hits home for everyone – suicide is a top ten cause of death nationwide, as well as in my home state. This bill will authorize funding for critical programs, improving the immediate and follow-up care Americans so desperately need.”
“Suicide is preventable with early intervention, but too often we are missing the opportunity to reach a person in distress,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “The Suicide Prevention Act would facilitate early intervention by providing local health departments with resources to better monitor suicide attempts and incidences of self-harm. Importantly, the bill also equips our emergency departments with the tools they need to help at-risk patients get the best possible care and support. This Mental Health Month, we are raising awareness about the need to grow early intervention programs and protocols, and I am as committed as always to advancing suicide prevention best practices that will save lives.”
Expanding Data Collection to Improve Prevention Efforts
This legislation would authorize funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to partner with state and local health departments to improve surveillance of suicide attempts and other incidences of self-harm. Current data collection efforts regarding suicide are often years after the fact, which limits the ability of state and local health departments, as well as community organizations, to recognize trends early and intervene.
Preventing Suicide Among Emergency Department Patients
Recognizing that emergency health care providers are at the frontlines of responding to suicide attempts, this bill would authorize funding for a grant program within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to fund suicide prevention programs in emergency departments (ED) to better train staff in suicide prevention strategies, screen at-risk patients, and refer patients to appropriate follow-up care. The legislation would also require SAMHSA to develop best practices for such programs, so that health care providers are able to provide their patients with the best possible care and advice. Approximately 37 percent of individuals without a previous history of mental health or substance abuse who die by suicide make an ED visit within the year before their death. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the risk of suicide is greatest within a month of discharge from the hospital.