STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
Mr. DEWINE. Mr. President, today I join my good friends and colleagues Senator CHRIS DODD and Senator GORDON SMITH in introducing the Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Expansion Act of 2004. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, I recently held a hearing on youth suicide. At that hearing, it became painfully clear that we need thorough and actionable plans to deal with this tragic issue.
Statistics tell us that approximately every 2 hours a person under the age of 25 commits suicide. We also know that from 1952 to 1995, the rate of suicide in children and young adults has tripled and that between 1980 and 1997, alone, the rate of suicide in 15 to 19 year olds increased by 11 percent. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the 11th leading cause overall for death in the United States in 2001. However, it was the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. We also know that more boys are killing themselves than girls at a ratio of 5 to 1 in the 15 to 19 year old age group and at a ratio of 7 to 1 in the 20 to 24 year old age group. However, while boys are dying at a higher rate, girls in these age groups are attempting at a much higher rate. Estimates suggest that there may be from 8 to 25 attempts made for every suicide death.
These alarming numbers emphasize the need for early intervention and prevention efforts. Too often, the signs may be subtle or hidden until it is too late. While research has created improved medications and methods for helping those with mental health problems to recover, there is still much work to be done in the identifying those who need help.
A great deal of study has focused on identifying and categorizing the risk factors related to suicide. In children and youth, these risk factors include depression, alcohol or drug use, physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior. Of people who die from and who attempt suicide, many suffer from co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders. Children with these risk factors, as well as children who are know to be in situations at risk for acquiring them, should be included in comprehensive state plans. Children and youth specifically addressed in State plans should include those who attend school, including colleges and universities, those already receiving substance abuse or mental health services, those involved in the juvenile justice system, and foster children.
As a result of the need for increased attention to the problem of suicide and access to help, I am pleased to join Senators DODD and SMITH in introducing the Youth Suicide Early Intervention and Prevention Expansion Act of 2004. With the establishment of a $25 million grant initiative, this bill would encourage the development of statewide youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies that coordinate agencies and non-profits in providing mental health services to and screening of youth in a variety of settings. The settings would include schools, substance abuse and mental health service programs, the juvenile justice system, and foster care programs. The bill would also provide $5 million for relevant technical assistance and research.
Candidly, State plans for suicide intervention and prevention need to be created and expanded to help stop these heartbreaking losses. We commend the States that already have created such plans and encourage all states to take this important step. I thank Senators DODD and SMITH for their leadership on this issue, as well as others like Senator JACK REED, who is dedicated to helping increase and improve much-needed mental health services for our Nation's youth.