Pennsylvania Governor Wolf’s Administration, in collaboration with the General Assembly and other agencies, released Pennsylvania’s Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan. The plan, which was developed by the state’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, is a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania by fighting stigma, increasing training and education on suicide and mental health, improving data collection for suicide, and supporting clinical practices and treatment to prevent suicide and help those who are struggling or in crisis know that things can and will get better.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the country, claiming more than twice as many lives each year as homicide. In Pennsylvania, 2,017 people completed suicide in 2018 (up from 1,272 suicides in 1999), reflecting a 43.3 percent increase in the age-adjusted suicide rate. Approximately 1.4 million adults attempt suicide annually in the United States, with more than 85 percent reporting having made a suicide plan prior to their attempt. Throughout National Suicide Prevention Month in September, we remember those lost to suicide and support loss and suicide attempt survivors and all who experience suicidal ideation every day. We must build an open dialogue around suicide so anyone who is struggling can discuss what they are experiencing and feel safe, supported, and know that help is available.
Suicide Prevention Task Force
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 the departments of Human Services (DHS), Health (DOH), Corrections (DOC), Aging (PDA), Education (PDE), Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), Transportation (PennDOT), Agriculture (PDA), Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP). Because suicide is so far-reaching, this diverse array of expertise is necessary to build a comprehensive prevention plan.
From late August through early December 2019, the task force held 10 listening sessions across Pennsylvania. More than 800 Pennsylvanians shared their stories of how suicide and mental health difficulties impact their lives and communities and made recommendations to inform the task force as they developed the statewide plan.
In January 2020, the task force released an initial report, which included key themes heard during the task force listening sessions. The goals and objectives of the task force were refined based on public feedback.
The final Statewide Suicide Prevention Plan lays out the task force’s findings into actionable themes with eight specific goals and objectives:
- Goal 1: Reduce stigma and promote safety, help-seeking, and wellness by increasing suicide awareness and prevention education.
- Goal 2: Promote trauma-informed approaches to support all Pennsylvania residents as part of our suicide prevention efforts by coordinating with Pennsylvania’s Trauma-Informed Care Task Force.
- Goal 3: Provide quality training on the prevention of suicide and management of suicide risk across multiple sectors and settings.
- Goal 4: Promote screening to identify individuals at risk for suicide across sectors, including health care, behavioral health, educational and correctional settings.
- Goal 5: Promote and implement effective clinical and professional practices for assessing and treating those identified as at risk for suicidal behaviors.
- Goal 6: Provide trauma-informed care and support to individuals affected by suicide deaths or attempts to promote healing.
- Goal 7: Promote safety among individuals with identified suicide risk, including firearms safety and awareness of the relationship between opioids and other substances to increased risk of suicide.
- Goal 8: Improve the capacity to utilize data reporting systems relevant to suicide and improve the ability to collect, analyze, and use the information in a timely manner so we can inform further suicide prevention efforts.
Moving forward, the task force will continue working with stakeholders at the local, regional, and state levels to support and monitor the implementation of the plan, and will begin with developing measurable, achievable action items.
Mental Health Resources
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or suicidal ideation or have in past, know that help is always available:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
- The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454
- For the Mental Health Crisis Text Line: Text PA to 741741
- Support and Referral Helpline: 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
- TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386
- Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860
These free resources are available 24/7. If you are concerned about someone else’s well-being, these resources can help you be a life-saving assistance. No matter what you are going through, help is available.