The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) has announced the reconvening of the Suicide Prevention Task Force, aiming to strengthen its focus on at-risk populations, particularly communities of color, who have been disproportionately affected by suicide and suicidal ideation.
In response to the mental health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Task Force, in collaboration with OMH’s Suicide Prevention Center of New York, will enhance existing prevention efforts and address the unique needs arising during this period.
Dr. Ann Sullivan, the Office of Mental Health Commissioner, emphasized the significant mental health impact of the pandemic on New Yorkers, especially highlighting the disparities in care for at-risk communities. The Task Force intends to build upon the foundation laid by the 2017 Suicide Prevention Task Force, whose final report was delivered in April 2019. This previous report focused on public health approaches to suicide prevention, enhancing health system competencies, improving data collection methods, and integrating cultural competence in suicide prevention activities.
Suicide remains a critical public health issue in New York, with 1,660 lives lost in 2021. It is notably the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 25 to 34 and the third leading cause of death for youth and young adults aged 10 to 24. Despite a relatively stable overall suicide rate since 2012, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal alarming racial and ethnic disparities. The suicide rate among Black individuals rose by approximately 19 percent, and among Hispanic individuals by 7 percent, from 2018 to 2021. To address these disparities, OMH recently announced $15 million in suicide prevention grants for non-profit agencies and tribal organizations serving at-risk youth, young adults from racial and ethnic minority populations, and LGBQIA+ groups. This funding, part of a $1 billion initiative to expand mental health care in the state, aims to integrate cultural factors into suicide prevention strategies.
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