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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

November 12, 2021

OMH Announces Funding to Support Suicide Prevention Efforts for Uniformed Personnel

Program will provide support to law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical service members (EMS), corrections officers and military veterans

The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) today announced the launch of a new Initiative to strengthen suicide prevention efforts for uniformed personnel, including police and other law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical service members (EMS), corrections officers and military veterans. 

The program is called The CARES UP Initiative: (Changing the Conversation, Awareness, Resilience, Empower Peers, Skills Building/ Suicide Prevention for Uniformed Personnel), and it was developed by OMH’s Suicide Prevention Center of NY (SPCNY).  The program will utilize $1,000,000 in funding annually from OMH to offer suicide prevention and resiliency trainings, create targeted media awareness campaigns, and present grant opportunities to provide uniformed personnel departments across the State with funding to increase suicide prevention efforts and wellness programming.  

OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “First responders and uniformed personnel face stress and trauma on a daily basis. This can lead to increased risk of significant issues, including marital/family strain, poor sleep, depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, substance misuse, and even suicide.  Identifying and understanding the growing mental health concerns within our uniformed personnel communities highlights the critical need for initiatives like CARES UP.  This initiative will help support the men and women who serve and protect us every day, and will also help inform the public about the increased risks, challenges and behavioral health issues our first responders face.”

Director of SPCNY Dr. Jay Carruthers said, “CARES UP will provide much-needed mental wellness support to first responders, uniformed personnel, and military veterans – all of whom are at an elevated risk for suicide compared to the general population in New York State. We need to do a better job supporting resiliency and wellness in these populations, precisely what CARES UP programming is designed to do. Our efforts through CARES UP can ultimately save lives and keep our communities safer.”

Recent studies have indicated that first responders are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. In 2017, 103 firefighters and 140 police officers across the United States died by suicide, including 18 police officers from NYS. In 2019, The Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA) reported that 119 firefighters and 20 emergency medical technicians died by suicide.  New York State military veterans are also dying by suicide at rates higher than the overall population.  

OMH is also promoting a CARES UP webinar series titled “First Responders Behavioral & Mental Health Wellness: Lessons From The Field” and features Drew Anderson, Ph.D., FF/EMT, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany. Attendees will learn why there are more behavioral and mental health issues in first responders, as well as understand protective factors that boost behavioral and mental wellness and possible ways to help first responders struggling with behavioral mental health issues. These webinars are free and open to the public. Visit https://www.preventsuicideny.org/helping-those-who-help-others-steering-committee/ to register. 

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This is a message from the New York State Office of Mental Health. 

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