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Samantha Sears

Behavioral Health Policy and Practice Intern

Behavioral Health Organizations Host First National Rally to Prevent Suicide

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Last Saturday, thousands assembled on the steps of Capitol Hill to support Congressional bills related to suicide prevention and quality mental health care. Hosted by the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP), the Rally to Prevent Suicide featured speakers from suicide prevention organizations, families from those lost to suicide, and individuals with previous suicide attempts.

The National Council for Behavioral Health joined 12 other organizations as a Suicide Prevention Rally partner to promote the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 1905/H.R. 3931), and the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2017 (S.1015/H.R. 2345). Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Chris Stewart (R-UT) and John Katko (R-NY) were also lead supporters of NCSP’s fight to end suicide.

The rally encouraged attendees to invite their members of Congress to participate in efforts to end suicide by either attending the event or voting for suicide prevention measures. A notable speaker at the event was Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), who spoke about the need for compassion and government action to stop suicide. Betsy Schwartz, Vice President of Public Education and Strategic Initiatives at the National Council, shared how Mental Health First Aid is helping individuals assist others who are experiencing mental health concerns and crises. “Mental Health First Aid is providing Americans with the knowledge to change the conversation,” said Schwartz. “A national movement over 1 million strong is changing the way Americans ask for help.”

The National Council for Suicide Prevention’s most recent success on Capitol Hill was the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) funding for $23 million in fiscal year 2019. The data collected by NVDRS is used to educate public health officials and policymakers to target suicide prevention. Other Congressional asks included $150 million for National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suicide research, expedited Food and Drug Administration (FDA) anti-depressant approval process, and expansion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs).