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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 12, 2019

New York State Office of Mental Health to Host Fourth Annual Suicide Prevention Conference

September Conference Will Bring Together Clinicians, Advocates and Policy Makers from Across New York

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) will be holding its fourth annual New York State Suicide Prevention Conference: “STRONGER TOGETHER: Embracing Diversity and State/Local Partnerships in Suicide Prevention” on September 18th and 19th at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany.

The two-day conference will focus on best practices in the field of suicide prevention and will feature presentations highlighting recent developments in suicide prevention, including working with diverse minority populations, community coalitions, schools and college campuses, health systems, and advancements in surveillance data.

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “This year’s Suicide Prevention Conference will feature many notable speakers and will focus on suicide prevention efforts among our most vulnerable populations, including veterans, African American and Latina youth, residents of rural areas and members of the LGBTQ community.  Our annual conference helps diverse groups forge relationships and coordinate efforts, which are critical components to effective suicide prevention.”

Experts will moderate 30 break-out sessions on a wide variety of topics including:

  • Examining Factors Related to Suicide Risk Among Racial and Ethnic Minorities;
  • The Intersection of Substance Abuse and Suicide;
  • Creating Suicide-Safer Schools;
  • The Relationship Between Child Sexual Abuse, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicide in Youth; 
  • Engaging Veterans and their Families in Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment;  
  • Integrating Suicide Prevention into Clinical Settings in Rural Areas of New York State;
  • Preventing Suicide Among LGBTQ and Minority LGBTQ Communities; 
  • Suicide Prevention Training for Behavioral Health Care Providers.

Advocates Recognized for Their Extraordinary Efforts

During the Conference, OMH and its Suicide Prevention Office will recognize the extraordinary achievements and efforts of four suicide prevention champions from across New York State.

Awards will be presented for:

  • Creating and Strengthening Suicide Safer Schools in New York;
  • Creating and Strengthening Suicide Safer Communities;
  • Journey of Healing: Advocacy Work by a Suicide Attempt Survivor or Loss Survivor
  • The Frederick Meservey Life and Leadership Award (named for the founding Director of the Suicide Prevention Center of New York, bestowed on a New Yorker who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the field of suicide prevention.

Conference Builds on Suicide Prevention Task Force Recommendations

OMH has been the lead agency for Governor Cuomo’s 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 recently released its first report, which focuses on bridging gaps in current state suicide prevention efforts, and on building coalitions and supporting the efforts of local governments and advocates.

Established by the Governor in November 2017, the Task Force serves to increase awareness of and access to supportive services with a special focus on high-risk groups including veterans, Latina adolescents, and members of the LGBTQ community. Recommendations from the report include strengthening public health prevention efforts, integrating suicide prevention in healthcare, timely sharing of data for surveillance and planning, and infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities.

OMH Supporting Local Governments’ Prevention Efforts

In order to support local governments and help build suicide prevention coalitions across the State, OMH in partnership with the NYS Health Foundation recently awarded more than $630,000 to support four counties greatly impacted by suicide: Erie, Onondaga, Suffolk, and Westchester. The purpose of the grant – “Learning from Loss: Using Suicide Fatality Reviews for Effective Prevention Activities” – is twofold: first, to ensure accurate and complete data collection by coroner/medical examiner office investigations of suicide deaths; and second, to conduct in-depth community reviews of suicide deaths, looking for systemic patterns.

The innovative model being piloted in New York is based on a program successfully implemented in Washington County, Oregon, where a multidisciplinary team with representatives from the medical examiner’s office, healthcare providers, law enforcement, crisis workers, clergy, and other community partners share information during in-depth reviews of suicides after obtaining permission from next of kin. 

Looking for patterns, the Oregon review team discovered that several individuals had dropped off their pets at animal shelters just before killing themselves. Armed with that data, they moved quickly to train animal shelter staff; many have already intervened in several instances. At a time when the nation’s suicide rate keeps rising, Washington county, Oregon, has seen the number of suicides drop over each of the last three years.

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