Suicide Prevention: Top Priority for SAMHSA and the Nation
By Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
Preventing suicide is everyone’s business. As members of a family, a school, business, neighbors in a community, faith communities, friends, and the Government, we all need to work together to solve this problem. We simply can no longer allow those we live, work, and play with to believe that suicide is the only solution even in the worst of times.
Suicide prevention is a priority at SAMHSA and a priority for the Nation as this major public health threat weighs on families and communities in every state.
SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
Because of the complexity of issues surrounding suicide and the sensitivity required in efforts to prevent these tragedies, SAMHSA has expanded and deepened its focus on suicide prevention. Suicide prevention is now prominently featured in several of SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiatives. Those include Military Families, Trauma (especially childhood trauma) and Justice, and Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness.
On a national level, Government leadership supports the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. To accelerate efforts to prevent suicide, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Department of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates launched the Action Alliance as a public/private partnership in the fall of 2010. The private sector co-chair is former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith, currently President and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC. Representing the public sector as a co-chair is Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
SAMHSA supports the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and offers a wide variety of publications and videos for substance abuse service and treatment providers, mental health counselors, and others in the field.
The Lifeline is a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Calls are routed to the crisis center closest to the caller. The phone number is 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), for veterans, active military, and their families, the Lifeline offers a special confidential service. By pressing “1” at the prompt after dialing the Lifeline toll-free number, individuals are connected to trained counselors at the VA.
Research worldwide has repeatedly shown that the way media cover suicide has an impact. That is why SAMHSA is encouraging the next step to help save lives by supporting the release of the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide (See Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide). This set of recommendations, created and reviewed by national experts from the mental health and public health fields, suicidologists and epidemiologists, and journalists and editors, will be the one-source document for all those working in the media industry to use as a guide on how to report on suicide.
On a personal level, by pledging to learn about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses and substance abuse, the warning signs of suicide, and the way to get someone you care about the professional help they need, each of us can make a difference in people’s emotional well-being and suicide prevention.
When it comes to suicide prevention—like so many other issues we work with in the behavioral health field—we need a national dialogue to effect change.