Recent high profile suicides in Onondaga County and a higher than average suicide rate has Senator Chuck Schumer calling for increased federal resources for prevention programs.
“Between 2013 and 2017, 49 people per year committed suicide on average,” said Schumer. “That’s 248 people. Unfortunately, Onondaga County’s rate is about 25% higher than New York State’s rate.”
The national numbers are also increasing. A report from the CDC shows the suicide rate in 2017 was 33 percent higher than in 1999. Schumer is urging congress to increase funding for the federal Zero Suicide program; to boost the number of Medicare-supported residency training spots for mental health doctors; and secure funding for grants that can be used by states for counseling and outreach.
Kimberly Langbart is Vice President of Integrated Health Care at Liberty Resources in Syracuse where Schumer made his announcement. Liberty is expanding its primary care capacity and adding substance abuse services to have the biggest impact.
“So taking away that stigma that suicide is somebody else’s problem,” said Langbart. “That somebody doesn’t have the competency or the confidnece to be able to spot those red flags, and really bringing together the workforce number one, through evidence based training, and also the layperson.”
County Health Commissioner Doctor Indu Gupta agrees that the responsibility for spotting signs of suicide goes beyond doctors.
“Any small change in life, we may think that’s like ‘oh it’s a small thing,’” said Gupta. “But maybe that’s a very important, big thing for that individual. So reach out. Make sure you check on your friends and family. If you see something is changing, trust your gut.”
Gupta says for every person who commits suicide, there are 30 attempts. Mayor Ben Walsh says the recent murder suicide of a mother and her three children in Syracuse earlier this month really hit home.
“I just couldn’t help but think as I stood there on site that we owe it to our constituents to our community to do better,” said Walsh. “We have to do better.”
Walsh says Syracuse has been consistently underserved with mental health, and that any additional resources will go a long way to improve prevention and care.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.