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Gonzalez addresses rising suicide rate in new bill to boost research, identify causes

Washington, October 16, 2019

Congressmen Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Ben McAdams (D-UT), introduced the Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act today in a move to take action against rising suicide rates in the United States, including among the veteran community. The measure directs the National Science Foundation to fund competitive research grants across a range of disciplines and in early career research with the goal of increasing understanding of the root causes of our rising suicide rate.

“Suicide rates are on the rise in America and effecting everyone from our veterans to a new generation of children facing the untold effects of social media. Better research on the causes of suicide attempts is badly needed to help us address this crisis at its roots,” said Congressman Gonzalez.

In Ohio alone, suicide rates among children 14 and under increased by 80 percent from 2008 to 2017 according to the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health. Nationally, the veteran suicide rate stands at 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults with 6,139 U.S. Veterans dying from suicide in 2017 alone.

“Every suicide is a tragic loss of life that affects families and communities and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind.  Encouraging more fundamental research on the biological, social and cultural, and environmental factors related to why suicide occurs is an important step towards saving lives,” said Congressman McAdams.

Despite progress in mental health research, current gaps exist in scientific understanding and basic knowledge of human genetic, behavioral, social, and environmental factors with potential relevance to suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), largest private funder of suicide prevention research, 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying and potentially treatable mental health condition. Specific treatments used by mental health professions, such as cognitive behavior therapy, have been proven to help people manage suicidal thoughts and behavior. But more multidisciplinary research is needed to improve our understanding of what leads to suicide attempts, including social and economic factors, technology and stigma associated with mental health conditions.

The Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act directs the National Science Foundation to collaborate with the National Institutes of Health to award competitive grants to colleges and universities and nonprofit organizations to support fundamental research across a range of disciplines and to promote development of researchers who pursue this study as a career. The research includes, but is not limited to, the basic understanding of human social behavior.  AFSP finds that if someone can get through the intense and short moment of active suicidal crisis, chances are they will not die by suicide.

The measure is endorsed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the American Psychological Association.

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