The following editorial appeared in the The (Sunbury) Daily Item, a CNHI newspaper. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.
Pennsylvania recently initiated a new, thoughtful long-term strategy to help reduce suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the nation.
A newly formed Suicide Prevention Task Force will work to consolidate efforts ongoing in a number of state agencies into one, statewide suicide prevention plan.
The task force, with members appointed by the cabinet secretaries of various state agencies, will hold its first monthly meeting in the next few weeks.
Members will represent the state departments of Aging, Human Services, Drug and Alcohol, Health, Military and Veterans Affairs, Education, Corrections and Transportation, along with the Pennsylvania State Police and Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
In making the announcement, Gov. Tom Wolf said state government has “an obligation to provide resources and promote safe, supportive environments so people we serve know that there are places to turn if they are in crisis. Silence can perpetuate crisis and make people feel like they are struggling alone with no outlet or options for support, but things can and will get better, and help is always available.”
State officials said the new task force will work to develop long-term policy solutions and strategies to increase awareness of resources available to people in crisis, reduce the stigma associated with suicide and mental illnesses and reduce the rate of suicide in Pennsylvania.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that suicide rates are on the rise across the nation, and they have increased by 34 percent in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Problems with relationships, substance use, physical health conditions, a job or financial situation, legal issue and other crisis-level situations most often contribute to suicide, according to the CDC. More than half of the people who die by suicide do not have a known mental health condition.
“All lives have value and worth, but there are times when it can be hard for people to see through their pain,” Wolf said. “My administration will do everything we can to ensure that the people we serve and represent know that they are never alone and that systems and supports are equipped to provide help that can save lives.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, or you are considering harming yourself, free help is available 24 hours a day through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.