SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde (at podium) addresses the tragedy of suicide, saying, “A loss from suicide tears the soul and causes us to ask, ‘What could I have done?’ ” Other speakers included (left to right): Dan Reidenberg; HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius; Defense Secretary Robert Gates; former Senator Gordon Smith; and Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Convenes
To show unprecedented support, public and private sector leaders came together to announce the founding of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, M.P.A., and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Ph.D., joined SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., to announce the public and private sector co-chairs for the effort.
The public sector co-chair is Secretary of the Army John McHugh. The private sector co-chair is former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith, who was instrumental in ensuring the passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act.
At the National Action Alliance press conference in September, HHS Secretary Sebelius emphasized the need for a public-private collaboration to prevent suicide.
Secretary Sebelius emphasized, “The National Action Alliance has real responsibility to take the steps needed to accelerate our work in suicide prevention, including better research and better training for counselors and primary care physicians.”
The focus of the Action Alliance will include:
- Updating and advancing the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
- Developing effective public awareness and social marketing campaigns, including targeted messages for specific segments of the population that can change attitudes
- Advancing suicide prevention among high-risk groups.
One such group is active duty military and veterans. “The survivors of battlefield wounds often suffer from traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and other psychological ailments—all factors that can increase the risk of suicide,” said Secretary Gates.
Native American youth also face a high risk of suicide, noted Coloradas Mangas, a 15-year-old member of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. He related the experience of losing several friends to suicide.
Out of the alliance will grow advancements for practitioners, policymakers, service providers, communities, families, and agencies that play a vital role in reducing the burden of suicide in America.
“We’re here to bring the full force of our Nation’s resources to bear on confronting the challenge, breaking the silence, and stopping the pain and suffering,” said Administrator Hyde.
“For the last 5 years we’ve seen the suicide rates in the Army, frankly, explode,” Secretary McHugh said.
“Almost 7 years ago, my wife and I received news that our son had taken his life,” said Senator Smith. “The loss of a child, for any reason, is the most challenging thing a parent can go through. But when the reason is suicide, the suffering is indescribable. If we could alleviate that suffering for all survivors of suicide, then our time is well spent.”
Dan Reidenberg, Psy.D., Managing Director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention, encouraged people to “take five to save lives,” by spending a few minutes to become familiar with suicide warning signs and speaking out if they see someone in trouble.
To learn more, visit the Action Alliance’s website. Watch the press conference.