Suicide rates are on the rise in Ohio and across the United States, but a new bill lead by Congressmen Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and Ben McAdams (D-UT) and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Monday night seeks to take on the problem. H.R. 4704, the Advancing Research to Prevent Suicide Act, promotes research to identify and understand the root causes of suicide, including among America’s most vulnerable populations.
“We all know we have a mental health crisis in this country, but for me, and for my constituents, the suicide problem is a personal one, impacting far too many close to home,” said Congressman Gonzalez. “I sincerely believe that if we want to make a dent on the issue at hand, we need to be more proactive in finding the causes of suicide clusters and suicide contagions. Our children, our veterans, and our neighbors deserve action.”
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. Stark County, Ohio has experienced especially high increases in youth suicide rates with the rate of suicide among youth aged 10 to 19 rising to more than 7 times the national rate in 2018 and 11 times the 2011-2016 Stark County Rate, according to a report published by the Northeast Ohio Youth Health Survey. Since 2000, suicide rates have increased by 36 percent across the state of Ohio. Nationally, the veteran suicide rate continues to stand out at 1.5 times the rate for non-veteran adults with 6,139 U.S. Veterans dying from suicide in 2017.
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas thanked Congressman Gonzalez for his leadership on research to prevent suicide. “Suicide was the tenth-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2016 and the second-leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34. I appreciate that Rep. Gonzalez and Rep. McAdams are taking steps to address this tragic epidemic,” Ranking Member Lucas said.
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), the 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.