Suicide Prevention Advocates to Gather in Harrisburg

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States and the 11th leading cause of death in Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, April 16, advocates from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the largest suicide prevention organization in the United States, will arrive at the state capitol to urge lawmakers to prioritize suicide prevention initiatives and mental health for all Pennsylvanians.

“Being involved with AFSP’s advocacy team gives me the opportunity to build positive relationships with state legislators to work on improving mental health care and suicide prevention in Pennsylvania. Together we work on suicide prevention issues that impact my local community, and I feel like I am part of a large group of people dedicated to saving lives and preventing suicide through advocacy,” said Jim Presto, AFSP Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter Board Co-Chair.

Advocates will be urging lawmakers’ support of legislation that can help reduce the rate of suicide in Pennsylvania, including: SB 199 providing for depression screenings for students in grades 6-12; SB 56 prohibiting mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with minors; HB 836 strengthening the ability of the Department of Insurance to enforce the federal mental health parity law; HB 951 establishing a Veteran Suicide Grant Program to provide suicide prevention resources and supports for Veterans and their families; and SB 90/HB 1075creating a process for Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Pennsylvania.

The AFSP Pennsylvania State Capitol Day is a special day for all who have a connection with or a personal story around the topic of suicide. Volunteers will meet with their state legislators and share their stories about why they participate in this advocacy effort, giving a human face to this important public health problem. Advocates hope that by sharing their stories, they will help legislators understand that state investments in mental health and suicide prevention can save lives.

Advocates from the AFSP Pennsylvania chapters are part of a larger national movement of AFSP volunteer advocates who will be visiting over 40 state capitols across the United States in 2019 to bring best practices in suicide prevention to state legislators and their staff. To learn more about AFSP’s advocacy efforts, visit here: https://afsp.org/our-work/advocacy/.

On average, 129 Americans died by suicide each day in 2017, and upwards of 90% of those individuals had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death. AFSP volunteers will urge state lawmakers to be the voice for the thousands of Pennsylvania residents affected by suicide each year.