Letters to the Editor | Daily Chronicle

Letter: Congress must pass legislation to prevent suicides and support crisis care

Dear Editor:

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As a volunteer advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I am calling on my members of Congress to pass legislation to prevent suicides and support crisis care.

This effort is so increasingly important. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of 45,979 Americans in 2020 alone. Following isolation from the pandemic, burnout across several careers, and the anxiety of current events, it is more important than ever to support our loved ones and neighbors.

However, this is not a new issue, as I have struggled with mental illness since high school in the Chicago suburbs. I also have more friends than I can count that grew up with me struggling with anxiety and depression silently, and the Chicago suburbs were never immune to deaths by suicide. It was not until I went away to college that I even heard others speak openly and candidly about their struggles to create a community of understanding and deep support.

I believe the Chicagoland area could greatly benefit from funding of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to improve visibility of mental health support and allow children and adults alike to know they are never alone.

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline must be sustainably funded so that confidential, voluntary services by trained counselors are accessible. H.R.7116, the 988 Implementation Act, would provide federal funding and guidance to states for 988 crisis services across the nation.

An alternative to 911 for mental health crises, 988 connects callers to Lifeline centers. These centers de-escalate 98% of crisis calls without dispatching emergency services. Well-resourced crisis support systems can connect callers with local resources, including someone to talk to (call centers), someone to respond (mobile crisis teams), and somewhere to go (crisis stabilization centers). We must ensure that every state has the capacity to provide comprehensive crisis response services to help save lives.

For more information, go to afsp.org/988.

Join me in urging Congress to take action to #StopSuicide!


Holly Westerkamp