ERIE — The Wolf Administration’s Suicide Prevention Task Force today joined members of the legislature and community members at Penn State Behrend for the first session of the statewide public listening tour. The Suicide Prevention Task Force, made up of several state agencies, members of the General Assembly, and Prevent Suicide PA, and others in attendance discussed suicide prevention efforts in the local community.

“Suicide does not discriminate, and all ages, genders, regions, and socioeconomic statuses may be affected,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller. “We are here to open a conversation with the local community and ensure all voices are heard. These listening sessions allow Pennsylvanians to speak directly to the task force, and their voices will help shape and strengthen a plan for Pennsylvania to do more to prevent suicide, reduce stigma around mental health and suicide, and address healing and recovery for loved ones.”

Historically, DHS has worked with stakeholders to develop separate suicide prevention plans related to youth, adults, and older adults. These plans have set the stage for prevention efforts in Pennsylvania by incorporating feedback from suicide prevention efforts occurring around the commonwealth, sharing data needs to better inform prevention efforts, and developing strategies to reduce stigma associated with mental health, suicide, and suicide attempts.

The Suicide Prevention Task Force brings together leaders from the departments of Human Services, Health, Corrections, Aging, Education, Military and Veterans Affairs, and Transportation as well as the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Pennsylvania State Police, elected officials, and mental health and suicide prevention organizations. The public listening sessions are an opportunity to learn about how suicide impacts the lives of Pennsylvanians across the board and develop prevention efforts that reflect the diverse needs of individuals and families across the state.

Individuals and families affected by suicide shared their stories from their own or a loved one’s experience to help inform the task force’s work to reduce stigma around discussing mental health and suicide. Representatives from Pennsylvania’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA), and the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’’ Association (PMHCA) were on site during the listening session to facilitate meaningful discussion and gather feedback that will be consolidated in a report to the task force to inform the plan.

“Suicide is a topic that is often hard to discuss,” said Department of Health Deputy Secretary for Public Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky. “It was inspiring to join advocates, legislators and community members to hear from the brave people who were able to share their personal stories to raise awareness, combat stigma, and help to prevent suicide. We all want to do our best to ensure our fellows Pennsylvanians have the supports necessary to navigate difficult times.”

The Suicide Prevention Task Force will continue hosting public listening sessions through November in Philadelphia, York, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock, Centre County, and the Lehigh Valley.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and upcoming public meetings or listening sessions, visit www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/suicideprevention.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is considering suicide, help is available. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741.