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Public Statements

World Suicide Prevention Day 2013


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Today is the eleventh observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide is a serious public health problem, but suicide is also a preventable public health challenge, one in which all of us can play a role.

Three years ago, former Defense Secretary Gates and I launched the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. The Alliance has brought together leading experts and advocates from the private and philanthropic sectors, health care providers, public officials, faith leaders, the Armed Forces and other federal agencies to help free our nation from the tragedy of suicide.

The Alliance and the Office of the Surgeon General last year released the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, to be our nation's blueprint for suicide prevention efforts over the next decade.

We know the majority of people who kill themselves are not receiving treatment at the time of their death. But by building on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, the Affordable Care Act will extend mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections to 62 million Americans.

We're also making sure that suicide prevention is part of our broader efforts to improve health care in America. More than 71 million Americans can now get preventive services like screenings for alcohol abuse and depression at no out-of-pocket cost, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

Additionally, the health care law is encouraging better coordination between health care providers, a critical issue in promoting rapid follow up care of individuals at risk for suicide who are discharged from emergency departments and inpatient units.

While we've made much progress, we will not be satisfied until we see the suicide rates declining across the nation. This month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is providing additional grants to states, tribes and college campuses for youth suicide prevention.

HHS continues to support the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and to partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs on the Veterans Crisis Line. Anyone can call 1-800-273-8255 at any time -- day or night -- to get help. The Lifeline has answered an average of 89,000 calls per month this year, with more than 27,000 calls per month being answered by the Veterans Crisis Line.

Finally, at President Obama's request, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and I have partnered with the White House to launch the National Conversation on Mental Health to reduce the fear, shame, and misperceptions that too often prevent people from getting the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need. We all have a role in preventing suicide, and working together, we will.

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