HARRISBURG, Pa., April 11, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One person dies by suicide every five hours in the state of Pennsylvania. To help prevent this tragic loss of life, volunteer advocates from the Pennsylvania chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are visiting the state capitol today to encourage their legislative leaders to support the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Staff Member Program and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program Act (SB 134) and the Protection of Minors from Sexual Orientation Change Counseling Act (SB 44).
"Each year, suicide takes more lives in the U.S. than homicide, war and natural disasters combined. In Pennsylvania, about three times as many people die by suicide each year than by homicide. It is critical that we work together with legislators to prevent suicide and help saves lives," said Regine Tilghman, AFSP Advocate. The advocates are part of a larger national movement of AFSP volunteer advocates who will be visiting 35 state capitols across the United States in spring 2017 to share best practices in suicide prevention to state legislators.
The Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Staff Member Program and Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor Loan Forgiveness Program Act (SB 134)
Due to low wages and high turnover, there is a critical shortage of direct care providers of mental health, intellectual disability and drug and alcohol treatment services. SB 134 would provide a loan forgiveness program for qualified college graduates entering the mental health, intellectual disability and drug and alcohol treatment professions.
The Protection of Minors from Sexual Orientation Change Counseling Act (SB 44)
If passed, this legislation 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 has not been proven to change a person's sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Conversion therapy can, however, 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; LGBT adolescents are at particular risk for emotional or physical harm.
When students do not feel marginalized by governmental policies, such as banning same sex marriage, their suicide attempt rate is lower. On February 20, 2017, there was a study published in the Journal of American Medicine which found that same-sex marriage policies were associated with a 7 percent reduction in the proportion of all high school students reporting a suicide attempt within the past year. The study analyzed pre- and post-policy rates of self-reported suicide attempts and found a decrease by 0.6 percentage points (8.6 percent to 8.0 percent) among the all-student group following policy implementation. For students identifying as sexual minorities, the reduction in suicide attempts was larger (28.5 percent to 24.5 percent).
Suicide in Pennsylvania
Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death overall in Pennsylvania. For people aged 25-34 in Pennsylvania, it is the second leading cause of death. For those aged 10-24, it is the third leading cause of death. 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, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. 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