NAMI Urges Surgeon General To Make Suicide Prevention Top Priority

Partners With The Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network To End Stigma Against Severe Mental Illness And Suicide

Apr 17 1998

More than 30,000 Americans commit suicide annually. The ninth-leading cause of death in the United States, suicide devastates more and more families in communities around the country each year. While we do not always understand why some choose suicide, we know that it is all too often associated with severe mental illness, particularly major depression. Death by suicide is unfortunately one of the most dire risks of untreated mental illness.

Sadly, more than 10 percent of individuals with schizophrenia and more than 15 percent of those with major mood disorders kill themselves. These are preventable and senseless deaths that could have been avoided with the right medical intervention. As a nation, therefore, we must be more vigilant in screening for suicide risk and ensuring that every American has access to appropriate medical treatment if we are to prevent other such tragedies.

NAMI applauds Surgeon General David Satcher for recognizing the epidemic proportions suicide has reached and for announcing plans to develop the National Suicide Prevention Strategy our nation so desperately needs. We urge the Surgeon General to make suicide prevention one of his top ongoing priorities and to continue to vigorously educate the public on the warning signs of this most painful and tragic act. We also congratulate Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for his bravery and leadership in suicide prevention by sponsoring Senate Resolution 84, which recognizes suicide as a national problem.

We are pleased to partner with the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network (SPAN) and commend the organization for its tireless and heroic efforts in working to prevent such senseless loss of life. SPAN serves as a critical link to life for the millions of suicide survivors and those who live with people at risk of suicide. We also deeply appreciate their efforts to end the stigma still surrounding mental illness and suicide. We look forward to receiving the suicide prevention plans that will be developed during SPAN’s forthcoming conference, "Advancing the National Suicide Prevention Strategy: Linking Research and Practice," to be held in Nevada this fall.

NAMI salutes Dr. Satcher, Senator Reid, SPAN and the millions of suicide survivors who have courageously dedicated themselves to supporting those who have experienced suicide and to educating everyone to the warning signs that, if ignored can have tragic results.

NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization solely dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 172,000 individual members and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI's efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.

"Open Your Mind. Mental Illnesses are Brain Disorders." NAMI's Campaign to End Discrimination is a five-year effort to end insurance, housing, and employment discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses