Durbin Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators to Introduce Bill to Help Prevent Youth Suicide

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–April 7, 2011.  In an effort to prevent youth suicide and reach out to young people who need mental health services, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Tom Udall (D-NM) today introduced the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011. Included in today’s legislation are portions of Durbin’s Mental Health on College Campuses Act which calls for the creation of a competitive grant program that would provide funding to colleges to focus on both outreach to identify students with mental health needs and treatment of students coming to counseling centers for help.

“After the tragic shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, I introduced legislation that would help colleges and universities meet the challenge of identifying students in need of mental health services,” said Durbin. “The Mental Health on Campus Improvement Act would increase the amount of resources and support available to aid students at a vulnerable time in their development. I am glad to see that provisions from this bill were included in today’s important legislation that reaffirms our commitment to suicide prevention.”

The reauthorization will help improve access to counseling for at-risk teens and promote the development of statewide suicide early intervention and prevention strategies. It will also increase federal funding for competitive grants to help colleges, universities, and tribes improve mental and behavioral health counseling services. Overall, the bill authorizes the federal government to award up to $45 million annually to help states and non-profit institutions prevent youth suicide.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death on college campuses and the third-leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults age 10 to 24, resulting in 4,400 lives lost each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 150,000 young adults are treated annually for self-inflicted injuries at emergency rooms nationwide.

“Many young people who commit suicide have a treatable mental illness, but they don’t get the help they need. This bill provides critical resources for prevention and outreach programs to reach at-risk youth before it is too late,” said Reed, who noted that in Rhode Island, there are more than twice as many suicides as homicides. “Schools, colleges, and universities are on the front lines of preventing youth suicide and this bill will help train more adults to identify the warning signs and improve access to help kids get counseling.”

“In Alaska, the leading cause of death for our young people between ages 10 – 19 is suicide, and the numbers are even higher for young Alaska Native men,” said Murkowski. “But these aren’t just statistics; they are our sons and daughters and loved ones. This bill continues our fight against Alaska’s epidemic of youth suicide. America’s future depends on protecting our children today, whether they’re in remote villages, small towns or college campuses.”

“There is nothing more devastating for a family than when a young member is compelled to take his or her own life,” said Udall. “Growing up can be a very turbulent and traumatic process, and youth of every ethnicity and background deserve support within their communities to reinforce just how valuable they are. Prevention, intervention and counseling services are key to ensuring at-risk youth receive the care they need.”

The federally-funded National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1-800-273-TALK (8255) — is a national network of more than 140 suicide prevention crisis centers around the United States, operates a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

The reauthorization bill is named for then-Senator Gordon Smith’s (R-OR) 22-year old son, Garrett, who was a student at Utah Valley University when he took his own life in September of 2003. Gordon Smith authored the original bill and has championed suicide prevention and mental health initiatives.

The legislation is supported by the Mental Health Liaison Group, including the National Alliance for Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/SPAN USA, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Council on Education.

Specifically, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization of 2011 would continue the following efforts:

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Ensures grantees receive appropriate information, training, and technical assistance on:

  • Developing and implementing of cost-effective early intervention programs;
  • Identifying and understanding the causes and associated risk factors for suicide;
  • Surveying suicidal behavior and nonfatal suicide attempts; and
  • Evaluating and disseminating outcomes and best practices of mental health and substance use disorder services.

The reauthorization would extend the current $5 million authorization through fiscal year (FY) 2016.

Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Strategy Grants to States and Tribes

Provides States, Tribes/Tribal organizations the authorization to develop and implement:

  • Early intervention, assessment, and treatment services;
  • Information and awareness campaigns;
  • Tools to evaluate intervention and prevention practices and strategies;
  • Training programs for providers and child care professionals;

The reauthorization would increase the authorization from $30 million to $32 million annually through FY16.

Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services and Outreach on Campus

Enables colleges and universities to prevent youth suicide by authorizing:

  • Educational and outreach activities on suicide prevention;
  • The development and implementation of evidence-based and emerging best practices;
  • The provision of mental health and substance use disorder services, including prevention, promotion of mental health, and voluntary screening; and
  • The employment and training of personnel.

The reauthorization would increase the authorization from $5 million to $7 million annually through FY16.

Source: durbin.senate.gov