Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York will be the first state in the nation to launch an innovative pilot program aimed at reducing new suicide attempts among individuals who had previously attempted suicide. Funded through the $3.5 million federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program reframes how suicide attempts are examined in order to develop individualized prevention strategies.
In addition to the pilot program, the New York State Office of Mental Health is launching a new social media campaign to help connect people to suicide prevention resources. The campaign will also provide insights on how to recognize when someone might be experiencing a suicidal crisis and the steps you can take to help them through their crisis.
"Two high-profile suicides this week put mental illness front and center, but while those names were the ones in the press, every day there are thousands of New Yorkers who struggle with suicidal thoughts, and we must do everything we can to support them," Governor Cuomo said. "Depression does not discriminate. It affects every part of society and people from all walks of life. This innovative pilot program tailors treatments to the specific needs of individuals and helps bolster our efforts to get people the support they need and keep New Yorkers safe."
Developed in Switzerland, the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program is based on the belief that it is more helpful to view suicide as an action taken in order to reach a goal, rather than simply a symptom of mental illness. Only by understanding the very individualized path to a suicide attempt can one develop effective prevention strategies. Clinicians at Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse have already received training on this new method and are prepared to begin implementation.
The program takes place over three sessions. During the first session, patients are video-recorded telling his or her story of how they came to harm themselves. In the second session, the video recording is viewed together by the ASSIP-trained therapist and patient. The third session is devoted to developing safety planning strategies for avoiding future suicidal behavior. This information is summarized for the patient, family members upon the patient's request, and other treating providers, serving as a template for reducing future risk in the community. Therapists also send "caring contact" letters for several months after the in-person sessions conclude.
Researchers conducted a study of 120 individuals who had recently attempted suicide. Half the participants were placed in a control group that received standard therapy, while the other half received ASSIP. The study found that after two years, one person had died by suicide from each group. However, only five repeated attempts occurred in the ASSIP group, compared with 41 in the control group.
New York State Office of Mental Health Commissioner Ann Sullivan said, "The initial studies of ASSIP have been very promising, and ASSIP patients saw the risk of repeat suicide attempts reduced greatly. OMH and our Office of Suicide Prevention have implemented a number of effective and successful programs, and are working with advocates and stakeholders to prevent suicide. ASSIP will provide another effective tool in our mission."
New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force
Prior to the launch of ASSIP, Governor Cuomo created the New York State Suicide Prevention Task Force, which includes leaders from state agencies, local governments, not-for-profit groups, and other recognized experts in suicide prevention. The Task Force was first announced in the Governor's 2017 State of the State.
The Task Force is focusing on bridging gaps in current state suicide prevention efforts. It also highlights high-risk demographic groups and special populations, including members of the LGBT community, veterans, individuals with mental illness, Latina adolescents, and individuals struggling with alcohol and drug use. Veterans in New York State represent more than 15 percent of suicides, while nationally, LGBT adolescents are four times more likely to have attempted suicide than their non-LGBT peers.
Committees of the Task Force have been meeting regularly and reaching out to Veterans' groups and members of the LGBT, Latina and other high risk communities. A report on partnerships and prevention efforts in those communities will be released later in the summer.
New York State Partners with Crisis Text Line
Additionally, the New York State Office of Mental Health recently entered into a partnership with Crisis Text Line (CTL), a national not-for-profit organization that provides free, 24-hour text-based support for people who are experiencing a mental health or situational crisis. CTL has helped users who are facing suicidal thoughts, maternal depression, cyberbullying, family emergencies, anxiety and more.
By texting "GOT5" to 741-741, users are connected to a trained Crisis Counselor, who will help them sort through their crisis and develop a plan to stay safe. The trained volunteer Crisis Counselors are supervised by full-time licensed mental health professional staff.
Text messages are confidential, anonymous and secure. Data usage while texting Crisis Text Line is free and the number will not appear on a phone bill. By partnering with Crisis Text Line, OMH will receive data reports of all texts with the NYS keyword, "GOT5". While users of CTL remain completely anonymous, the data collected is used to identify trends, which can help OMH to better target and improve mental health services for people in crisis situations across the state.
NYS Health Connector Dashboard
Last month, the New York State Department of Health launched the NYS Health Connector, a web-based application which highlights a data dashboard of suicide in New York State. The dashboard was created to assist agencies, communities, coalitions, and other stakeholders in developing and implementing suicide prevention initiatives that target issues specific to their catchment areas. It allows users to view charts and graphs of numbers and rates of suicide - and later suicide attempts - by age, gender, race/ethnicity, county, marital status, veteran status, and mechanism of death. The data come from the Vital Statistics Mortality Data for 2014 and 2015 and will be updated as new data become available.
How to recognize when someone might be experiencing a suicidal crisis and what to do?
What if you have experienced a loss by suicide?
Seeking support can be helpful for many individuals who have experienced a loss by suicide. While not everyone benefits from formal, short term counseling it can be helpful to help support the grieving and healing process. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a wide variety of resources that can also be of assistance for loss survivors. For more information go to: https://afsp.org/find-support/ive-lost-someone/resources-loss-survivors/
Community groups interested in suicide prevention training can contact the Suicide Prevention Center of NY:
For clinical trainings on best practices for suicide prevention contact the Center for Practice Innovations: