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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 19, 2022

NYS Office of Mental Health Hosts Annual Suicide Prevention Conference

Internationally recognized experts will discuss importance of social connection

To help raise awareness and share the latest developments, findings and techniques regarding suicide prevention, the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) is hosting the three-day 2022 Suicide Prevention Conference, beginning September 20. The free and virtual conference, titled "Fostering Connection Across the Lifespan" will bring together internationally recognized experts to summarize the latest prevention science.

Governor Kathy Hochul first announced the Suicide Prevention Conference, as well as other initiatives to raise awareness when she proclaimed September to be Suicide Prevention Month in New York State.

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan, said, “The theme for this year’s conference speaks to the importance of social connections and the experience of having a sense of belonging and feeling close to others.  Studies show this sense of connection – from childhood and throughout our entire lives - is one of the most important factors in not just mental health but also our physical health.”

The Director of OMH’s Suicide Prevention Center, Jay Carruthers, M.D. said “Our annual suicide prevention conference always serves as a great opportunity to bring leading suicide prevention experts together to discuss the latest science and important issues facing suicide prevention. Past attendees left the conference with new and valuable suicide prevention resources they brought back to their families, organizations, schools and communities to help make New Yorker safer and healthier.  This year we have a fantastic lineup of internationally recognized experts for what will be the largest-attended conference we’ve ever hosted. It’s clear that thousands of New Yorkers are interested in learning about social connectedness and its importance to our health.”

More than 20 subject experts, including clinicians, researchers and service providers will participate in this year’s conference. This year’s speakers include:

  1. Jean Twenge is a social psychologist whose research has focused on the mental health impact of wide-spread use of smart phones and social media by Gen Z or as she refers to them, iGen. These individuals -- born after 1995 – are the first generation to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones. Perhaps as a result, they are fundamentally different from the generations before them. iGen is growing up more slowly as adolescents, taking longer to engage in adult activities such as working, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol. iGen spends more of their leisure time with digital media and less time seeing their friends face-to-face; they also spend less time sleeping. This pattern of time use is associated with compromised mental and physical health, which might explain why rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide suddenly increased after smartphones became common around 2012. 
  2. Julianne Holt-Lundstad is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. Her research is focused on the long-term health effects of social connection and her work has been seminal in the recognition of social isolation and loneliness as risk factors for early mortality. Her program of research takes an interdisciplinary and multi-level approach to understanding the associations between social relationships and long-term health outcomes, factors that may moderate the association, and the biological (autonomic, neuroendocrine, gene) pathways by which these associations occur. She has also recently begun work that examines how social relationships may be utilized in interventions to potentially reduce risk.
  3. Cheryl King is a psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Youth Depression and Suicide Prevention Program at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the development of culturally tailored and evidence-based practices for youth suicide risk screening, assessment, and intervention. She will discuss the current crisis in adolescent mental health, including the upward trends in depression, anxiety, self-harmful behavior, and suicide, as well as recent “calls to action” to address this urgent public health concern. This information will provide the backdrop to an overview, based in scientific studies, of the importance of social and school connectedness to adolescent mental health.
  4. Helen Kingston is general practitioner physician at the Frome Medical Practice in Frome, England where she has been caring for patients for over 20 years. Dr. Kingston and her team are internationally known for an initiative aimed at integrating healthy social connection into primary care. The Frome work has been featured prominently in the New York Times, the Guardian, and other major media outlets.
  5. Sherry Molock is a psychologist and associate professor in the department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at George Washington University. She is the developer with her collaborators of the HAVEN Connect model, a novel upstream wellness program for youth in New York Black churches. HAVEN Connect is a suicide prevention program designed to help youth feel socially and emotionally connected to natural, cohesive, social networks and to enhance their adaptive coping skills to help prevent suicide among African American youth who attend predominantly Black churches.
  6. Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and Zen priest. He is Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever done. The Study tracked the lives of 724 men for over 80 years and now studies their Baby Boomer children to understand how childhood experience reaches across decades to affect health and wellbeing in middle age. He writes about what science can teach us about healthy human development, and his book about the science of relationships, entitled The Good Life, will be published by Simon & Schuster in January of 2023.


More information on registering for the Conference is available on the SPCNY website.


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