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

May 31, 2024


Office of Mental Health Reconvenes Task Force to Address Social Isolation, Depression and Anxiety, Including Among Communities of Color

The New York State Office of Mental Health today announced the Suicide Prevention Task Force has reconvened with 32 members participating in its inaugural meeting this month. Overseen by the agency, the reconvened Task Force is aimed at building upon the recommendation made by its predecessor to strengthen public health approaches, enhance health system competencies, improve data surveillance methods, and infuse cultural competency in the state’s suicide prevention strategy.

“Suicide claimed the lives of 1,765 New Yorkers in 2022,” Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said. “ And among high school-aged youth,  growing numbers of girls, Black teens, and LGBTQ+ students report that they feel persistently sad or have suicidal thoughts. The reconvened Suicide Prevention Taskforce will address these troubling trends and strategize on thoughtful, culturally competent solutions to improve mental wellbeing for all New Yorkers.”

The Task Force will conduct six virtual sessions on a bi-monthly schedule. During its first meeting, the Task Force acknowledged a need for a more equitable and inclusive suicide prevention plan, highlighting workforce issues with emphasis on diversity and inclusivity in mental health services; stigma and community engagement; structural and systemic issues; access to comprehensive mental health services; prevention strategies in educational settings; and identifying underserved populations.

Established in partnership with OMH’s Suicide Prevention Center of New York, the Task Force will build upon the work the state’s 2017 Suicide Prevention Task Force, which delivered its final report in April 2019. These critical recommendations included strengthening foundations for public health suicide prevention approaches; building health system competencies and pathways to mental health care; improving surveillance methods, tools, and access to timely data; and infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities.

Suicide claimed the lives of 1,660 New Yorkers in 2021. It is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the age of 25 and 34, and the third leading cause of death for youth and young adults between the age of 10 and 24.

While the suicide rate in New York State has remained relatively stable since 2012, a recent report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted racial/ethnic disparities, including among black and Hispanic individuals. The report showed the suicide rate among Black individuals increased by about 19 percent and 7 percent among Hispanic individuals between 2018 and 2021.

Last year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued its Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which also found alarming mental health trends among high school-aged youth between 2011 and 2021 – especially among teen girls. Nearly a third of teen girls seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, an increase from 19 percent the prior decade; about three in five felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, which was twice the rate of teen boys and represents a nearly 60 percent increase over the rate recorded in 2011.

This survey also found that youth from marginalized populations are more likely to suffer mental health issues: More than half of LGBTQ+ students expressed having poor mental health, with one in five reporting having attempted suicide in the past year. Suicide attempts were also elevated among Black youth when compared to White youth, according to the report.

Likewise, there have been alarming increases in suicide rates among Black youth. Suicide rates among Black individuals ages 10 to 19 have increased 54 percent since 2018, and faster than all other racial and ethnic groups, according to a report released by the Pew Charitable Trust last month.

The suicide rate among Black youth, ages 10 to 17 rose 144 percent from 2007 to 2020, even though overall youth suicide rates were trending downward. Black adolescents were also significantly less likely than their peers in other demographic groups to receive mental health care, the report found.

Last year, New York State began a five-year $10 million effort funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to address mental and behavioral health problems among youth, with the goal of ensuring equitable access to underserved populations. In addition, the state Office of Mental Health received a five-year, $3.5 million federal grant to expand the Zero Suicide model – a systemic approach toward integrating suicide prevention in the health care system – among 13 Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics.


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