On August 21,the Wolf Administration’s Suicide Prevention Task Force convened a 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, which is comprised of behavioral health professionals, advocates, and youth, adults, and families affected by mental illness and substance use disorder. It advises DHS’ Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on policy and activities relating to the behavioral health field and treatment systems.
Also gathered were representatives from more than 10 state agencies, legislative co-chair Rep. Mike Schlossberg, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA. They discussed progress and received 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 MHAPA, Pennsylvania’s National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, 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.”
Details for listening sessions are as follow:
- Wednesday, Aug. 21 — Mental Health Planning Council/Regional Listening Session
Central Penn College, 600 Valley Road, Summerdale, PA 17093
- Thursday, Sept. 12; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Northwest PA
Penn State Behrend-Reed Union Building, 4701 College Drive, Erie, PA 16510
- Thursday, Sept. 26; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Southeast PATemple University, Fox-Gittis Community Room, 1776 N. Broad St. Philadelphia, PA 19122
- Thursday, Oct. 10; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Central PA
Jewish Community Center, 2000 Hollywood Drive, York, PA 17403
- Thursday, Oct. 24; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Northeast PA
Lackawanna College, 501 Vine Street, Scranton, PA 18509
- Friday, Oct. 25; 10 a.m. – noon — Northeast PA
Cedar Crest College, Alumnae Hall Auditorium, 100 College Dr. Allentown, PA 18104
Thursday, Nov. 7; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Southwest PA(Rescheduled for Dec. 5 — see below)
- Friday, Nov. 8; 10 a.m.-noon — Southwest PA
Slippery Rock University, 102 Robert M. Smith Student Center, 1 Morrow Way, Slippery Rock, PA 16057
- Friday, Nov. 15; 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Southeast PA
Radnor Township Building, 301 Iven Ave. Radnor, PA 19087
- Wednesday, Nov. 20; 10 a.m.-noon — Central PA
State College Municipal Building, 243 South Allen St. State College, PA 16801
- Thursday, December 5; 5:30-7:30 p.m. — Southwest PA
Fred Rogers Studio at WQED, 4802 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
For more information on Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and upcoming public meetings or listening sessions, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.