Harrisburg, PA – The Wolf Administration’s Suicide Prevention Task Force convened a session at the Pennsylvania Mental Health Planning Council meeting to discuss suicide prevention efforts around Pennsylvania, a statewide listening tour, and an increased focus on suicide and gun violence following Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order.
“Suicide by firearms account for 52 percent of all suicide attempts, and 85 percent are fatal – higher than nearly every other method of attempt,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “We cannot have a meaningful discussion about preventing suicide without also discussing how people are attempting. We are committed to looking closely at this issue so state and local governments, treatment systems, and support networks are informed and prepared to help people who are at risk.”
The meeting was held in conjunction with the Department of Human Services’ Mental Health Planning Council meeting to gain their insights and perspective on the task force’s work and what is needed for a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. The Mental Health Planning Council is comprised of behavioral health professionals, advocates, and youth, adults, and families affected by mental illness and substance use disorder and advises DHS’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on policy and activities relating to the behavioral health field and treatment systems.
The meeting brought together representatives from more than 10 state agencies, legislative co-chair Rep. Mike Schlossberg, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA to discuss progress and receive feedback on a comprehensive state plan to reduce suicide, suicide prevention efforts occurring around the commonwealth, data needs to better inform prevention efforts, and strategies to reduce stigma associated with mental health, suicide, and suicide attempts.
The task force also began its focus on addressing the prevalence of suicide by firearms. Earlier this month, Gov. Wolf announced an executive order taking unprecedented action to reduce gun violence around Pennsylvania. As part of this effort, the Suicide Prevention Task Force will focus more closely on suicides by firearms and issue recommendations to reduce their prevalence, promote safe storage policies, and help Pennsylvanians in crisis considering this action. The recommendations will be shared with the Special Council on Gun Violence later this fall.
The Suicide Prevention Task Force also announced a series of public listening sessions around Pennsylvania over the next several months. Individuals and families affected by suicide through their own experience or a loved one are invited to share their experience to help inform the task force’s work and reduce stigma around discussing topics like mental health and suicide. Representatives from Pennsylvania’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, the Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania (MHAPA), and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA) will be on site during the listening sessions to facilitate meaningful discussion and consolidate feedback from listening sessions and provide a report to the task force to inform the plan.
“Since the task force was initially announced, we’ve heard from many people looking to share their personal stories to raise awareness, combat stigma, and help prevent suicide however they can,” said Sec. Miller. “These listening sessions will allow Pennsylvanians to speak directly to the task force, and their voices will help shape and strengthen a plan that can help the state and our partners do more to prevent suicide and reduce stigma around mental health and suicide.”
Additional sessions will be scheduled through September, October, and November in Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, and Northeastern, Southeastern, and Southcentral Pennsylvania. Details on additional listening sessions will be released as they are finalized.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and upcoming public meetings or listening sessions, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.