Of all the issues that come before the state legislature, some take on extra significance when weighed against the consequences of not acting. Since I first joined the Ohio House in 2011, the issue of suicide prevention—and more specifically, how to reach out to those people in need of help—has been a priority that has garnered a great deal of attention.
First, some startling statistics. In Ohio:
· Suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds in 2013
· A person dies by suicide every six hours
· Twice as many people die by suicide than by homicide
Fortunately, I believe that the state has taken some necessary and positive steps to overcome this tragic problem. In recent years, various pieces of legislation have been signed into law, ranging from raising awareness of the problem to training school faculty and staff in areas of suicide prevention. Beginning next month, all of Ohio’s public colleges and universities will inform students of the suicide prevention programs that are available to them on campus, which include resources like access to mental health programs and suicide prevention hotlines.
Leading the charge on this issue over the past four years has been State Rep. Marlene Anielski, from the Cleveland area. She has sponsored all of the initiatives mentioned above, and this week, held a press conference with higher education leaders from around the state to both highlight the state’s commitment to solving the problem and to discuss resources that are being implemented on Ohio’s college campuses.
During the press conference, former Ohio State football coach and current Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel described this era as a very challenging time for young people. He said that the work being done in the legislature and on college campuses provides an excellent opportunity to help young people in vulnerable situations.
Last week being “National Suicide Prevention Week,” it was appropriate to call attention to all the things Ohio is doing to reach out to folks who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts and to highlight all the resources that are available to help those individuals. Preventing suicide really is a job that could fall on each one of us. Not everyone in need of counseling or treatment will reach out on their own for help. That is why it is so important that we all do what we can to offer a helping hand if we think that someone might be considering suicide.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.