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James Plastiras Director of Public Information New York State Office of Mental Health 518-474-6540 james.plastiras@omh.ny.gov

September 18, 2018

Office of Mental Health Recognizes Capital Region Suicide Attempt Survivor for her Extraordinary Peer-to-Peer Prevention Efforts

Sarah Felman Honored for Her Role Creating a Suicide Safer Community

Albany, NY – Sarah Felman, a peer advocate from Albany, has been honored by the New York State Office of Mental Health for bringing peers to the forefront of suicide prevention in the Capital Region.

Felman, who works at the Mental Health Empowerment Project, received the state’s “Suicide Safer Communities” award at the 2018 Suicide Prevention Conference, held in Albany.

“Sarah Felman is a perfect example of what can happen when one single individual strives to make a difference in the lives of individuals struggling with thoughts of suicide,” said New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Marie T. Sullivan. “We thank Sarah for her tenacity and commitment to preventing suicide across New York State.”

Felman, a suicide attempt survivor, was nominated for the Suicide Safer Communities award by two coworkers at the Mental Health Empowerment Project. She’s being recognized for her work helping countless individuals in the Capital District through an Alternatives to Suicide peer support group, the only such group in the state. The supportive environment is facilitated by a suicide attempt survivor and allows individuals with suicidal thoughts to talk freely about their struggles.

“It is an honor to be recognized for my work as the facilitator of the Alternatives to Suicide peer support groups. Instead of fear and assumption, we meet thoughts of suicide with an open curiosity and desire for exploration by asking “what does feeling suicidal mean to you?”  We validate that having thoughts of suicide is a human experience and we can create meaning from our narratives through peer-to-peer support and being a part of a broader community. I am humbled and look forward to continuing my efforts in contributing to suicide awareness in the state of New York,” said Sarah Felman.

“Sarah’s dedication to creating a suicide safer community is exemplified in her commitment to the peers that she works with and her readiness to reach out to different organizations in the Capital District to raise awareness of the effects of suicide. She is an exceptional individual who has worked tirelessly in support of the people of Troy and the Capital District, has been asked to present on multiple panels, and deserves to be recognized for her outstanding efforts,” said Robert Volk, nominator from the Mental Health Empowerment Project.

For more information about peer support through the Mental Health Empowerment Project, visit, https://www.facebook.com/TheEmpowermentExchange.


Suicide Prevention in NYS

Preventing suicide is a priority in New York State.

In 2016, OMH’s Suicide Prevention Office released “1700 Too Many: The New York State Suicide Prevention Plan”.  The Plan addresses the state’s strategy to decrease the number of deaths, including ensuring access to quality mental health services, as well as well coordinated, collective efforts that include behavioral health systems, schools, and communities working together using evidence-based and best practices in the field.


New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force

In his 2017 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo announced the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force, which includes leaders from state agencies, local governments, not-for-profit groups, and other recognized experts in suicide prevention.

The Task Force is focusing on bridging gaps in current state suicide prevention efforts. It also highlights high-risk demographic groups and special populations, including members of the LGBT community, veterans, individuals with mental illness, Latina adolescents, and individuals struggling with alcohol and drug use. Veterans in New York State represent more than 15 percent of suicides, while nationally, LGBT adolescents are four times more likely to have attempted suicide than their non-LGBT peers. 

Committees of the Task Force have been meeting regularly and reaching out to Veterans' groups and members of the LGBT, Latina and other high-risk communities.  A report on partnerships and prevention efforts in those communities later this year.


NYS Health Connector

In early 2018, the New York State Department of Health launched the NYS Health Connector, a web-based application that allows quick access to a wide range of health information, empowering consumers to make more informed health care decisions. This new website, which also features health care service and utilization data, is a rich resource for policymakers and researchers interested in identifying needs and resources in communities throughout the state, including suicide prevention.

The death by suicide dashboard on the NYS Health Connector has been updated to include self-harm hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits statewide. In addition, 2016 data has been added to this version, along with interactivity for the county platforms and self-harm hospitalization and ED visualizations.


Suicide Prevention Training Opportunities

Suicide Prevention trainings are also available throughout New York State. Community groups can register for a suicide prevention training course through the Suicide Prevention Center of NY. Clinical trainings on best practices for suicide prevention can be accessed through the Center for Practice Innovations.


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