On Monday, leaders in healthcare and government came together to launch the new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Secretary of the Army John McHugh, and Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Scott Gould were joined by many others to share with the country the first update to the National Strategy in over a decade.

For me, the launch of a revised National Strategy is really a coming full circle. It was through learning about the original National Strategy when I was in graduate school that I began to understand a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention - rather than a “throw each starfish back into the water” approach. And, now in 2012, with suicide much more in the spotlight than it was in 2001 when the first National Strategy was released, we’re even better poised to see the impact of people who care about suicide prevention coming together to make change in our nation.

The National Strategy features 13 goals and 60 objectives that advance suicide prevention by:

  • Fostering a positive public dialogue; countering shame, stigma, and silence; and building public support for suicide prevention.
  • Addressing the needs of vulnerable groups and seeking to eliminate disparities, by tailoring programs to the cultural and situational contexts in which they are offered.
  • Coordinating and integrating suicide prevention with existing efforts addressing health and behavioral health, and ensuring continuity of care.
  • Promoting changes in systems, policies, and environments that will support and facilitate the prevention of suicide and related problems.
  • Bringing together public health and behavioral health.
  • Promoting efforts to reduce access to lethal means among individuals with identified suicide risks.
  • Applying the most up-to-date knowledge base for suicide prevention.

What does that mean on the ground? Hopefully, that:

  • More public figures and regular people will speak out about suicide prevention,
  • Groups who are at increased risk for suicide will get the attention they deserve,
  • Suicide prevention won’t be yet another “silo” in healthcare, but an integrated part of programs and projects that focus on a range of health issues,
  • Suicide prevention will be a top-down initiative. Systems will be created that decrease the need for us to try to throw each starfish back into the water,
  • How people die by suicide - where the rubber meets the road in suicide prevention - will be an area of increased focus, and
  • Research, research, research! And, then, research being applied to practice.

What am I most excited about?

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership founded with the goal of bringing changemakers in the government, non-profit, and private sectors together to work toward suicide prevention, has chosen priorities to direct its work based on the National Strategy. One of these priorities is to change the public conversation around suicide and suicide prevention.

The stories that we’ll hear about suicide and suicide prevention will be those promoting hope, connectedness, social support, resilience, treatment, and recovery.

As someone who works hard to do just that each week on this blog, I truly can’t wait.

Copyright 2012 Elana Premack Sandler, All Rights Reserved

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