On September 13, 2022, leadership from multiple state agencies joined advocates from Prevent Suicide PA to recognize September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and raise awareness around work to embed suicide prevention efforts across systems.
Approximately 1.2 million adults attempt suicide annually in the United States, with more than 85 percent reporting having made a suicide plan prior to their attempt. In 2020, the most recent year that data is available, approximately 1,700 people died by Suicide in Pennsylvania. Throughout September, we remember and honor those lost to suicide, and support loss and suicide attempt survivors and all who experience suicidal ideation, mental health challenges, and crisis every day.
Mental health challenges or times of crisis can affect anyone at any time. All Pennsylvanians should take extra care to be mindful of their mental health and tend to their overall health and wellness as often as possible. Do a self check-in, be honest about how you are feeling to yourself and your support network, and if you need someone to talk to or a little extra support, help is available.
“It might be easy to think that there are few students at risk of suicide in the commonwealth, but recent data has shown that last year, 20 percent of Pennsylvania youth seriously considered suicide. That’s one in five kids in our commonwealth,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “In my role, I travel to schools across our commonwealth and interact with learners of all ages, who come from all walks of life. Each of these students has their own unique circumstances, perspectives, strengths, passions, and challenges. But one thing they all have in common is they have a bright future. They have potential and promise. This Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we are committed to keeping Pennsylvania students safe, happy, and well.”
This summer, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline officially launched nationwide, streamlining call and text access to the national lifeline that provides no-cost crisis response support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. With the national launch of 988, Pennsylvania’s 14 lifeline call centers are continuing to provide support for individuals considering suicide or self-harm, or experiencing a mental health crisis or emotional distress as well as for people looking for help for a loved one. While 85 percent of calls are triaged and de-escalated without deploying in-person services, if needed, a call or text to 988 can activate a mobile mental health crisis team or other emergency response services that will arrive on site and provide therapeutic interventions, make referrals for outpatient services, or transportation for further evaluation. Callers to 988 can also connect with the Veterans Crisis Line or assistance in Spanish.
In 2019, the Wolf Administration announced the formation of a statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force comprised of leadership from Prevent Suicide PA, members of the General Assembly, and representatives from more than 10 state agencies covering health and human services, public safety, education, and veteran’s affairs, among others. Because suicide is so far-reaching, this diverse array of subject matters and expertise is necessary to build a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary awareness and focus on embedding suicide prevention wherever possible.
In addition to 988, many other resources also remain available to Pennsylvanians in need of support, including:
- Crisis Text Line: Text “PA” to 741-741
- Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
- Get Help Now Hotline (for substance use disorders): 1-800-662-4357
- Pennsylvania Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-888-772-7227 or https://pcar.org/help-in-pa
- National Domestic Violence Helpline: 1-800-799-7233 or www.PCADV.org
Additionally, the challenges of COVID-19, uncertain economic climate, and increased inflation may still create challenges for individuals and families who are trying to make ends meet. When people struggle to access essential needs, this can create more stress and anxiety, and resources are available in your community to help you meet these needs. People in need of assistance can visit www.dhs.pa.gov/compass to learn more, apply for assistance programs and connect to local programs that can help with health care, food, housing and utility bills, plus other needs.
To learn more about mental health and crisis supports in Pennsylvania, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/mentalhealthinpa.
Learn more about Prevent Suicide PA’s work around Pennsylvania at www.preventsuicidepa.org.