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National Strategy Launched for Suicide Prevention

By Bob Carolla, NAMI Director of Media Relations

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public-private partnership, have launched a new National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, seeking to reduce deaths from suicide in the decade ahead.

The new strategy was announced at a Washington, D.C. press conference held on World Suicide Prevention Day (Sept. 10), as part of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. More Americans die each year from suicide than homicide.

Leaders speaking at the press conference included U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who launched the Alliance partnership two years ago.

Warning Signs for Suicide:

These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. Seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings


“Our message today is one of hope,” Sebelius said, who announced $55.7 million in new grants for state, local, tribal and campus initiatives.

The first national suicide prevention de strategy, established in 1999, was a landmark initiative published the same year as the Surgeon General ‘s Report on Mental Health. It led to the development of 100 best practices in suicide prevention. The new strategy seeks to build on that foundation, setting 13 goals and 60 objectives for the next ten years. Four immediate priorities involve:

  • Integrating suicide prevention into health care
  • Encouraging transformation of health care systems to prevent suicide
  • Changing the ways the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention
  • Improving data collection on suicidal behaviors to support more effective prevention methods

Inevitably, the priorities will need to include integration and transformation of mental health care if the strategy is to succeed.

As part of the strategy, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has launched an outreach campaign, including a public service announcement, focusing on the role of families and communities in helping veterans in crisis.

The first national strategy was launched before 9/11, before the nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began. In June 2012, NAMI released a report on the mental health needs of veterans, which noted that today, one active duty soldier dies by suicide every 36 hour and one veteran every 80 minutes. Suicides also have increased within National Guard and Reserve forces, even among those who have never been activated.

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