HARRISBURG, Pa., April 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Over twice as many people die by suicide in Pennsylvania annually than by homicide. On Tuesday, April 12, volunteers from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the largest suicide prevention organization in the United States, will visit the state capitol to encourage lawmakers to support suicide prevention legislation. The advocates are encouraging lawmakers to vote for The Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Continuing Education Act; the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Staff Member and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program Act; and The Protection of Minors from Sexual Orientation Change Counseling Act.
"Suicide is a public health problem that can be prevented by education and the provision of resources. While we have increased mental health awareness and suicide prevention education in our communities and schools, we also need our health care professionals to receive regular continuing education in suicide assessment, treatment, and management so that they are better equipped to intervene and save lives," said Regine Tilghman, public policy chair for the AFSP Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
The Matt Adler Suicide Prevention Continuing Education Act (HB 64)
If passed, this act will require mental health professionals (psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and professional counselors) to receive at least one hour of continuing education in suicide assessment, treatment, and management as a portion of the total continuing education required for license renewal. Mental health professionals and professionals-in-training regularly encounter patients who are suicidal, yet many are unprepared to assess, treat, and manage suicidal behavior as this is not a routine part of their training or continuing education. Five states currently require this training via statute: Washington, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Utah. This legislation was passed unanimously in the PA House and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
The Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Staff Member and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program Act (SB 671)
If passed, this act will provide a loan forgiveness program for qualified college graduates entering the mental health, intellectual disability and drug and alcohol treatment professions. Paying for a portion of student loans for staff members in this field can encourage new graduates to pursue careers in the field of mental health.
The Protection of Minors from Sexual Orientation Change Counseling Act (SB 45/HB 935)
If passed, this act will prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in conversion therapy with individuals under the age of 18. Sexual orientation conversion efforts are based on the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness that needs to be cured, a belief that has been rejected as scientifically invalid by the American Psychiatric Association and all other major mental health organizations. Conversion therapy can invoke feelings of rejection, guilt, confusion, and shame and can lead to decreased self-esteem, substance abuse, social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, and increased risk for suicidal behavior.
Suicide in Pennsylvania
Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for people aged 55-64 in Pennsylvania. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death overall in Pennsylvania, on average one person dies by suicide every five hours in the state.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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SOURCE American Foundation for Suicide Prevention