January 22, 2021

State Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams Joins Sen. Maroney, State Representatives Welander, McCarthy Vahey and Steinberg Along with Community Members for Virtual Suicide Prevention Policy Summit Hosted by the University of New Haven

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Public Health Senate Chair state Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire), joined state Senator James Maroney (D-Milford), and state Representatives Mary Welander (D Orange), Public Health House Chair Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), and Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-Fairfield) for a virtual suicide prevention policy summit hosted by the University of New Haven. The summit provided legislators and community members with a space to discuss policy solutions to improve the mental health and wellness of Connecticut residents.

“Prior to the pandemic, we were making great strides in identifying solutions to prevent suicides among Connecticut residents. These unprecedented times brought on due to the pandemic have only exacerbated the mental health challenges of many high school and college students and adults across our state,” said Sen. Daugherty Abrams. “The challenges of this time do however provide us with an opportunity to focus more of our attention on building and nurturing effective mental health preservation practices. I commend Senator Maroney and the University of New Haven for their contributions in this area and I remain committed, as Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, to continue working to ensure we are doing all we can to proactively prevent suicide deaths in Connecticut.”

According to the United Health Foundation, the suicide rate increased from 25.4% from 1999 to 2016. In 2018, there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts and more than 48,000 deaths by suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Mental health disorders and substance use disorders are the most significant risk factors for suicidal behaviors.

According to the CDC, death by suicide increased since the coronavirus pandemic began and the number of people who have considered suicide has increased among young adults as well. In August 2020, surveys were conducted among adults over 18 years of age and 10.7% of respondents reported they seriously considered suicide in the 30 days prior to taking the survey. Meanwhile 25.5% of younger adults, ages 18-24, reported they seriously considered suicide.

“Suicide is preventable and today’s conversation was a reminder to all to know the warning signs and know that help is always available,” said Sen. Maroney. “Now is the time to take action and be there for youth and adults. One of my goals is to incorporate the great universities here in Connecticut in our policy making. It is important that we work together. Talking about mental health is the start of the conversation. I am committed to continuing to find solutions to put an end to a preventable health threat. Right now, we are living through collective trauma and as a community we are fighting to recover and re-build Connecticut. Individually, people are hurting mentally with a sense of hopelessness. Through this discussion, I am hopeful we will continue to bring new solutions to members of the community, including children and adults, in order to help those fighting their challenges and know there is always someone willing to listen.”

“In the midst of a pandemic, with every day stresses amplified, and with the omnipresence of social media, dialogue surrounding suicide prevention is vital now, more than ever before,” said Rep. Welander. “It is our responsibility to look for paths and partnerships to create greater access to suicide prevention and postvention support programs to fully address this health crisis. This summit is a continuation of that important work and I am proud to be part of this conversation.”

“As a social worker and QPR trainer, I know that our prevention efforts can make a difference and save lives,” said Rep. McCarthy Vahey. “Using evidence-based practices, working together with experts and continuing to shine a light on how we can prevent suicide is so critical right now. People are hurting in so many ways, which means more people are at risk. Let’s do everything we can to provide the hope, help and support people need.”

“The pandemic has ravaged our community in many ways, including increased isolation and depression. People are vulnerable,” said Rep. Steinberg. “We’re committed to taking a proactive approach in suicide prevention and expect to develop a bill which will enable the best practices and programs in our state to ameliorate this public health threat.”

Strategies discussed during today’s suicide prevention summit included the importance of intervening at multiple levels, which include taking preventative measures at schools, establishing mindfulness programs, creating community-based programs in a medical setting for those exposed to childhood or dating violence and individualized treatment at hospitals or outpatient treatment centers for anyone who has attempted to die by suicide. Help is available 24/7 by dialing 211 for anyone struggling during this time. There is also a crisis text line: text CT to 741741.