Suicide prevention remains an elusive goal, especially for veterans

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Members of the Wolf administration, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Prevent Suicide PA, and other legislators and advocates gathered today to recognize National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and discuss suicide prevention resources in the state.

Advocates and those who have lost loved ones shared their stories on the steps of the state Capitol.

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One of the speakers was Lee Covell, whose son Dylan was a Marine. He died by suicide a few years ago.

“Twenty-two veterans die from suicide a day in our country,” Covell said. “Remember, we train them not to feel, and so they aren’t always open and upfront about their mental health issues and what’s going on.”

However, it is not just a problem for people with military ranks. Rank and file lawmakers are also susceptible.

“I’ve been very candid about my own anxiety, depression, and suicide issues when I was younger, and those certainly flared up during COVID,” State Rep. Mike Schlossberg (D – Lehigh County), said.

Rep. Schlossberg said lawmakers can help by steering more money towards mental health programs. He also cited a study “that showed for every dollar the minimum wage was increased, suicide rates dropped by one percent, so if you want to talk about mental health and suicide you have to increase somebody’s quality of life.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, on average, one person died by suicide every four hours in Pennsylvania in 2020. Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death overall in the state last year, and it was the second leading cause of death among Pennsylvanians age 10-34, according to the foundation.

“Suicide prevention is something that we must all be actively engaged in every day. If you are someone who struggles with feelings of hopelessness, we want you to clearly hear this: your life and your health are too important to go through these feelings alone,” DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead said, according to a press release.

“These are very difficult times for many of us, and now more than ever we need to prioritize our commitment to community and relationships so no one has to go through these feelings alone,” Snead said.

The DHS noted several resources available for anyone in need of assistance. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or thoughts of suicide, the following free resources are available 24/7:

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
  • The Spanish-language National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-888-628-9454
  • Mental Health Crisis Text Line: text “PA” to 741-741
  • Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
  • TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ individuals: 866-488-7386
  • Trans Helpline: 877-565-8860

The big message: a lot of individuals are suffering mentally. COVID-19 has made it worse. Be assured you are not alone. There is help, and don’t have to suffer in silence.

For Pennsylvanians, the DHS also has a mental health help and referral hotline that can connect callers with additional resources in their communities. The helpline, Persevere PA, can be reached at 1-855-284-2494 (for TTY, dial 724-631-5600).

More information on suicide prevention and education can be found on Prevent Suicide PA’s website, pspahelp.com.

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