Each year, approximately 1,700 New Yorkers die by suicide, ranking New York State (NYS) 6th in the nation for overall suicide burden. Between 2000 and 2020, the suicide rate in NYS increased 35.6%, from 5.9 to 8.0 per 100,000 population, surpassing annual death rates by homicide and motor vehicle accidents. In 2019 there were an estimated 42,600 suicide attempts among New Yorkers leading to 22,430 hospitalizations and emergency department visits. From 2015-2019, it is estimated that 565,000 New Yorkers had suicidal thoughts annually. The scale of the problem is greatly expanded by the grief of friends and family members of those who attempted or died by suicide. COVID-19’s ongoing impact in NYS adds to the problem. As of May 21, 2022, there have been 5,346,809 infections and 55,917 deaths resulting from COVID-19. Research conducted during the pandemic reveals signs of broad increases in mental distress across the populace, but particularly among youth. However, COVID-19’s full impact on mental health and suicide risk is not well understood. Continued monitoring on suicide risk is imperative.
The NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH) requests funding to implement a comprehensive, multi-tiered approach to suicide prevention in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady counties, a four-county region in the heart of the New York’s Capital District where suicide morbidity and mortality exceed state averages. The proposed initiative is called Capital Connect, as it aims to provide critical support and foster connection among the most at-risk. OMH proposes targeting two populations found to be at particularly high-risk based on NYS surveillance data: adolescent girls (aged 10-19) and working-aged men (aged 25-64). OMH will utilize a data-driven approach for suicide prevention with the primary goal of reducing suicide morbidity and mortality in these disproportionally affected populations by 10% over the five-year grant period. Secondary goals include increasing access to evidence-based suicide prevention interventions with an associated reduction in disparities within the catchment area. The proposed approach will be rigorously evaluated with a focus on continuous quality improvement and sustained impact. In pursuing implementation of the proposed project in the four-county jurisdiction, an explicit aim is to test the feasibility of a model with statewide scaling potential.
Led by the OMH Suicide Prevention Center of New York in close partnership with the NYS Department of Health, the project will leverage and strengthen a multi-sectoral partnership plan that includes partners in state and local government, academia, juvenile justice, schools, local hospitals and primary care clinics, crisis services, advocates, the lived experience community, and a suicide prevention digital technology start-up firm. Regularly reviewing the latest surveillance data to guide efforts, partners will implement nine separate empirically supported approaches to carry out a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.