White House updates National Strategy for Suicide Prevention to address mental health crisis

ByDenise Dador KABC logo
Saturday, April 27, 2024
White House unveils new strategy for suicide prevention
The White House updated its National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which aims to reduce substance abuse, train more personnel and address underserved communities.

Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health involves reform, and for the first time in a decade, the White House is updating its National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

The approach aims to reduce substance abuse, train more personnel and address the needs of those in underserved communities.

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff shared the grim numbers of the growing public health crisis.

"Suicide affects everyone. It doesn't matter your age, race or gender," Emhoff said. "One hundred and thirty-two people die by suicide each and every day."

In its 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined 200 actionable items the government plans to implement in the next three years, including more support to mobile response teams, increasing frontline workers training, safe firearm storage campaigns and additional support for the 988 suicide crisis hotline.

"988 has fielded about 9.1 million calls, texts and chats. This hotline is truly saving lives," said Neera Tanden, director of U.S. Domestic Policy Council.

Launched in July 2022, the 988 hotline didn't exist during the pandemic when 20-year-old Katelyn Reece found herself in a dark place.

"I had to call 911 and be taken by ambulance to the hospital," Reece said.

Looking back, she believes dialing a number to be able to have a conversation at that time could have quelled her negative thoughts.

According to psychiatrist Ashley Zucker with Kaiser Permanente San Bernardino, suicide rates have not recovered two years after the pandemic.

She commends the new White House strategy, but says access to health care is still a huge barrier to overcome for many folks seeking mental health treatment.

"It really takes time and implementation, and that often takes, you know, money and resources."

If you have a loved one dealing with a mental health crisis, Dr. Zucker recommends checking in often and asking about their thoughts.

"Not being afraid to ask some of the difficult questions. We know that that does not increase or worsen the risk for suicide. It actually can save a life."

Reece says even simple questions, like someone asking her how she slept, gives her an opportunity to connect about mental health.

"I slept really good, it was actually kind of easy today. Something as simple as that can make a lot of difference," Reece said.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or worried about a friend or loved one, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 [TALK], or text TALK to 741-741 for free confidential emotional support 24 hours a day 7 days a week.