Monday, November 2, 2020

It Matters


Advocacy matters. Voting matters.

In his Military Times article (Will major veterans suicide prevention legislation pass this year, or get stalled by political fights?), Leo Shane II noted the continuing importance of advocacy when it comes to moving suicide prevention legislation forward.

"The future of major legislation on veterans suicide prevention policy in Congress remains unsettled for now despite claims of a breakthrough this week from Senate leaders and pleas from veterans advocates to pass something on the issue as soon as possible."

Even policies that are widely supported are stalled. In example, the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, passed out of the Senate in early August and has received praise from administration officials and veterans advocates alike.

The American Counseling Association also understands the importance of advocacy. In one of their most recent newsletters, they noted some of their successes;


"Due in part to your advocacy efforts, today the House has passed several mental health bills that are endorsed by ACA:

  • H.R. 5469, the “Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act,” introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), and eight other Members of Congress. The bill would authorize federal funding to address mental health inequities among underserved populations, including communities of color. The bill includes provisions that would: create a grant program targeted at high-poverty communities for culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services; support research into disparities in mental health; reauthorize the Minority Fellowship Program to support more students of color entering the mental health workforce; and study the impact of smartphones and social media on adolescents.
  • H.R. 1109, the “Mental Health Services for Students Act,” introduced by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY). The bill authorizes grants to fund school-based mental health services. The program would support screening for social, emotional, mental, and behavioral issues, including suicide or substance use disorders; treatment and referral for these issues; development of evidence-based programs for students experiencing these issues; and other strategies for schools to support students and the communities that surround them. The goal of the program is to create partnerships between schools and community-based mental health professionals across the country.
  • H.R. 5572, the “Family Support Services for Addiction Act of 2020,” introduced by Reps. David Trone (D-MD) and Daniel Meuser (R-PA). The bill authorizes the Secretary of HHS to award grants to support family community organizations that develop, expand, and enhance evidence-informed family support services for families and family members living with substance use disorders or addiction. The grants may be used to build connections between family support networks, with behavioral health and primary care providers, and foster care services, among others. The grant may also be used to reduce stigma around addiction and addiction treatment, family support outreach activities, and connect families to peer support programs.

It remains to be seen whether the Senate, which will now be in session next week due to the pending Supreme Court nomination, will consider these measures before the November 3rd election. ACA will keep you updated on any developments."

Paying attention to public policy bills and updates is critical. Katie King of the San Jose Spotlight explains the need in her article, Anna Eshoo and Mental Health Advocates Push Suicide Prevention Legislation:

"[Quoting Victor Ojakian, suicide loss survivor] When someone dies from suicide, Ojakian explained, countless others are affected by the loss. Family, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers and church members all share in the sorrow; the pain ripples throughout the community and remains for years to come.

That grief casts a wide net in the United States. Recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that suicide has ranked as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages each year since 2008. But some lawmakers in Congress are now taking steps that they hope will save lives.

The Energy and Commerce Committee passed three bills on July 15 related to suicide prevention, including The Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act, which would launch a national media campaign to raise awareness; the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act of 2019, which would enhance the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; and the Suicide Prevention Act, which would establish two grant programs to help hospitals or health centers identify and support at-risk patients.

If signed into law, each bill would provide a notable amount of funding. The lawmakers allotted $10 million each year from fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for the media campaign, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — a nationwide network of more than 160 centers that run crisis hotlines — would see its funding increased to $50 million"

When you vote this November (or before) remember that it is critical that we familiarize ourselves with our elected officials and their stance on mental health and suicide prevention. Learn about the suicide prevention legislation that they have proposed or endorsed. It's important. It matters.

Finally, a note from the American Association of Suicide Prevention in regard to one our suicide prevention legislative successes this past year:



On Saturday, October 17, after passing unanimously out of Congress, the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661) was signed into law. This historic legislation will support the full implementation of the three-digit "9-8-8" dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through funding guidance, federal reporting, and specialized services for at-risk communities like LGBTQ-youth and Veterans. A well-resourced, easy-to-remember 988 crisis hotline will increase access to necessary resources and support in times of crisis that will save lives.


This is a major victory for the suicide prevention movement. Of the nearly 20,000 bills introduced in a Congressional session, less than 1,000 are ever passed by Congress and signed into law.


AFSP Field Advocates have supported this effort over the past 3 years by emailing, calling, and meeting with their Members of Congress and writing media outlets across the country. It is through these efforts that we have seen real change to bring our country's mental health system into the 21st century with the full passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. We thank all of our advocates that have shared their stories and advocated for this landmark legislation.




There is still much more work to be done as we continue to advocate for a world without suicide. But through our joint efforts and your ceaseless passion we will save lives and bring hope to people effected by suicide. You can see AFSP's official press release here.


Please note that the 9-8-8 crisis hotline will not be nationally available until July 2022. Callers should continue to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through 1-800-273-8255 until 9-8-8 is fully operational.

As always, we thank you for your support and your advocacy!  

**For additional resources and to learn more about advocacy, please see our Advocacy Page, here.