Established by the Governor in November 2017, the Task Force serves to increase awareness of and access to supportive services with a special focus on high-risk groups including veterans, Latina adolescents, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Recommendations from the report include strengthening public health prevention efforts, integrating suicide prevention in healthcare, timely sharing of data for surveillance and planning, and infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities.
“It is critical that every New Yorker has access to the resources and mental health services they need to lead stable, healthy lives,” Governor Cuomo said. “As we continue to bolster prevention efforts in communities across the state, especially among high-risk groups, these recommendations will help increase awareness and strengthen the safety net to protect anyone who needs help.”
At the Governor‘s direction, the Task Force examined current programs, services, and statewide suicide prevention policies in order to identify gaps in resources and strengthen coordination between State and local partners. The group was co-chaired by Christopher Tavella, Ph.D, Executive Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health, and Peter Wyman, Ph.D, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and includes leaders from state agencies, local governments, not-for-profit groups, and other recognized experts in suicide prevention. The Task Force focused on vulnerable populations at greater risk for suicide, with special sub-committees created to examine how to better serve these groups.
The Task Force’s recommendations fall into four main categories and goals:
- Strengthening public health prevention efforts: Forging stronger partnerships with local communities, providing resources and expertise to assess local needs, and implementing research-informed prevention programs. Several recommendations are designed to jump-start State and community actions to expand the number of communities with prevention expertise to implement comprehensive public health prevention using best practices.
- Integrating suicide prevention in healthcare: Helping healthcare providers adopt a systematic approach to suicide prevention, which includes helping them to promote access to services, more effectively identify those at risk and utilize the most effective treatments.
- Timely sharing of data for surveillance and planning: Gathering and tracking data on regional trends in suicide rates and related behaviors is critically important to implement a high-quality public health prevention approach. By improving the availability of data, gaps in services can be addressed and local planning and prevention efforts can be enhanced.
- Infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities: Considering a community’s unique cultural and societal factors to develop effective programs and resources needed to create a suicide-free New York. Competence to address the needs of New York State’s diverse population is required across the full range of suicide prevention activities. In addition to tailoring services to address differences in race, gender, sexuality, and nationality, cultural competence includes the capacity for State agencies to differentiate programming needs of more rural and urban communities; competence within local coalitions to engage representatives of their diverse communities; recognition of the methods needed to reach each generation; and selection and tailoring of programming to suit the needs of each group at elevated risk for suicide.
In 2017, the Governor signed legislation requiring that the unique needs of all demographic groups and populations, including a special focus on Latina adolescents, veterans and the LGBTQ community, be taken into consideration when developing suicide prevention plans, programs and services.
Since the report was finalized, several recommendations have already been implemented in New York State, including
- Passing the Gender Expression NonDiscrimination Act,
- Increasing access to data to help support suicide prevention at the local level,
- Increasing collaboration at events designed for individuals transitioning from active military to veteran status, as this has been identified as a time of high risk, and
- Helping communities conduct in-depth reviews of local suicide deaths in order to more effectively target prevention efforts.
Additional Suicide Prevention Efforts in New York State
In addition to the Task Force’s work, OMH and the agency’s Suicide Prevention Office (SPO) are working to enhance programs and outreach methods to better servehigh-risk groups, including African American youth and rural New Yorkers, as well as Latina adolescents, veterans and members of the LGBTQ community.
The SPO works with and provides funding to suicide prevention coalitions and local governments across the state to bring resources and programs to inner city and rural schools and communities to help raise awareness and reach these at-risk groups.
In September, the SPO will host and sponsor its fourth annual New York State Suicide Prevention Conference, at which keynote speakers and 30 breakout sessions will focus on strengthening suicide prevention through state and local partnerships and targeting these diverse, at-risk groups.
OMH is also hosting a two-day symposium in June on “Strategies for Behavioral Health Equity: Leaving No One Behind.” The conference will bring together researchers, policy decision makers, mental health clinicians and front-line workers to discuss how to best bring mental health services to marginalized and vulnerable populations to create mental health equity for all New Yorkers.
If you know someone who has some of the risk factors above, a first step would be to find out whether the person has a “safety net” — a caseworker or a school psychologist, for example. Many times, there are professionals who are already involved with the person. If not, then it is a matter of finding the right professionals and getting them involved. Your local National Alliance on Mental Illness can help. Call 1-800-950-3228 for your affiliate’s phone number and address.