Feds must boost suicide prevention funds, Schumer says

Following the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the federal government to better support suicide prevention efforts.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed doubling federal funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — a 24/7, confidential suicide hotline — as well as increasing funding for mental health counseling, outreach programs and suicide research.

Suicide rates have increased nationwide from 1999 to 2016, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Funding for federal suicide prevention programs, however, has remained stagnant since 2013, according to Schumer.

“Suicide is on the increase,” he said. “We know there are ways to reduce it, but unfortunately the federal government is not funding those adequately, and hopefully the two tragic deaths of very popular figures, Kate Spade and Mr. Bourdain, will importune Congress to act.”

Schumer said that many people who commit suicide are not aware that there are resources available to help them. The Suicide Lifeline has assisted more than 6 million people since its launch in 2005, according to the program, and it has received $7 million annually in federal dollars since 2013. Schumer wants to double funding for Lifeline in 2019 and again in 2020. He proposed a public service campaign to promote the hotline, reasoning that if more people knew about it, more people would dial.

Another program Schumer wants to expand, the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention State Grants, disburses funds to states to be used for mental health programs, particularly community and college campus outreach. It has received $35,427 from the federal government annually since 2013.

“Reaching people to say you’re not alone, there are a lot of people who feel this way, there are lots of things you can do, is very important,” Schumer said.

He also cited the lack of extensive research into the causes of suicide as a difficulty in curbing these deaths. He wants to expand funding for Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which has received $5.9 million dollars per year since 2013.

“We don’t know enough: who is more prone to suicide, what are the best ways to stop them,” Schumer said. “No one’s really studied this until very recently, so there’s a prevention resource center and that should get more funding.”

Schumer also said that the correlation between gun availability and suicide merits more research, noting that suicide is often an impulse decision.

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