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Advocating for Change: A Timeline of Efforts in Suicide Prevention on the Federal Level

CW: suicide, mental health


Have you ever wondered how suicide prevention became a national priority? Have you also wondered how it can be made more of a priority? Suicide is a complex issue that affects countless lives, and the journey to address it through legislation and policy has already been a long one. Let's take a look at the key milestones and the impactful role organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) have played in this timeline of suicide prevention efforts.

The Early Days (1960s-1970s)

Back in the 1960s, the Surgeon General's report on suicide was a real eye-opener, shining a light on this critical public health issue. This paved the way for further actions down the line. In the 1970s, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) stepped up by funding research into suicide prevention strategies, raising awareness and sparking public discussions.


A photo of three signs that say don't give up, you are not alone and you matter

Advocacy Takes Root (1980s-1990s)

The 1980s saw the birth of AFSP, founded by a group of volunteers and families who had been affected by suicide. Their mission? To advocate for increased funding for research and prevention programs. Fast forward to the 1990s, and we saw the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act of 2004 – a significant stride in federal support for prevention initiatives, providing grants to states for youth suicide prevention efforts.


Legislative Landmarks (2000s-2010s)

The 2000s brought us the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, aiming to ensure equal coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services – a crucial step in reducing barriers to treatment. And in the 2010s, the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 allocated funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and enhanced coordination among federal agencies on mental health and suicide prevention.


AFSP's Impactful Advocacy

But legislative progress didn't happen in a vacuum. AFSP's volunteers, board members, and field advocates have been instrumental in driving change. If you've ever wondered why we can now dial 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, it all started with people like you who volunteered to make this happen!


From organizing community events and fundraisers to sharing personal stories and engaging with policymakers, their efforts have been vital in raising awareness, reducing stigma, and advocating for policy changes at the federal level.


Your Voice Matters: State Day and Capitol Day

One of the most powerful ways to get involved is by participating in AFSP's State Day or Capitol Day events. These are incredible opportunities to directly engage with state and federal lawmakers on suicide prevention issues. You can meet with legislators, share your experiences, and advocate for specific legislative actions, such as supporting bills related to mental health education in schools or expanding access to crisis intervention services.


How You Can Make a Difference

Want to be part of the movement? Here's how you can get involved:

  1. Join AFSP: Become a volunteer or to access resources, participate in advocacy efforts, and support their mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. You can find your local chapter right here.

  2. Attend Advocacy Events: Participate in State Day or Capitol Day events to make your voice heard on suicide prevention policy.

  3. Educate and Raise Awareness: Share information about suicide prevention, mental health resources, and the importance of destigmatizing conversations around mental illness in your community.

North Carolina Residents (specifically): -Are you already a field advocate? Sign up for State/Capitol Day here and head to Raleigh on May 22, 2024.

-Interested in learning more about attending a public policy event?

-If you're not yet a field advocate in NC and you want to get involved, sign up here.


Together, we can continue to drive progress and create a future where mental wellness is accepted as a priority, and suicide rates are reduced dramatically if not eradicated completely. It's an ongoing journey, but it is one that is worth fighting.

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