Suicide discriminates to no person’s ethnicity, gender, race, age or sexual orientation; but it takes an incredibly heavy toll on those left behind. There is growing hope, however. Since 1989, prevention efforts have dramatically increased in scope and scale.
The suicide prevention movement in the U.S. began as an effort to treat and discuss suicide with the general public in the same manner that we treat and discuss heart disease, cancer and AIDS. In 2001, then Surgeon General David Satcher issued the first National Strategy, which marked the first coordinated effort to address suicide in America.
Since then, advocates, foundations and nonprofit organizations such as the American Association of Suicidology, JED Foundation, Trevor Project, the Jason Foundation, Dr. Daniel Reidenberg and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), Dr. Robert Gebbia and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) have created youth suicide prevention programs in states, schools and university campuses. Public policy initiatives such as the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, the Mental Health Parity Act, and the Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act that help communities and veterans have been passed into law. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center, the nation’s only federally supported resource center, provides training, material and support to organizations, professionals and state, tribal, campus and community suicide prevention coordinators.
In 2011, the Department of Defense created a suicide prevention office (DSPO) to develop, implement and oversee risk reduction policies and programs. We will explore what initiatives the DoD as a whole, and in particular the Army and United States Marine Corps, the branches of the armed forces with the highest number of active-duty suicides, are implementing to curb these losses. There is no doubt about it: the military and veteran community, including their families, is struggling with suicide. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential hotline for veterans and their families is helping, as are prevention models such as ASIST and other “gatekeeper” training programs for family, friends and battle buddies.
Because of these collective efforts, we now know more risk factors and protective factors. The National Registry of Effective Programs and Practices now includes 16 evidence-based programs, models and treatments for preventing suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline connects with over 140 crisis centers across the country, and has gone social, as in media, with an anonymous outreach alliance with Facebook and Google.
More recently, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private coordinating body that was born as an objective of the first National Strategy, teamed with former Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and the National Council for Suicide Prevention to publish the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The strategy includes 13 goals and 60 objectives that have been updated to reflect advances in research, knowledge and practice. (2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention PDF.)
Via our featured stories and supporting interviews, Power of One: Preventing Suicide in America is eager to share this background and history of prevention. Our mission is to harness the power of story to engage a broad audience and share information, inspiration and resources that may help prevent suicide and save lives.
Our story is not new. Many thousands of professionals in the suicide prevention community have helped tell this story through their work, their outreach and their actions. With their support, we will stand with them as we create a compelling documentary to engage communities in this vital conversation.
Inform. Inspire. Empower.
– Team Power of One
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