U.S. Representative Billy Long
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U.S. Representative Billy Long
September 20, 2019

Suicide: A Preventable Public Health Problem

As I was putting the finishing touches on this week’s Long’s Short Report, I read in the Springfield News-Leader of another tragic loss of life, a 14 year-old Monnett Missouri student. According to the article "An autopsy found no cause of suspicious death and the investigation is still ongoing, pending toxicology. Police are calling the death an "apparent suicide."

Most everyone knows someone or has a family member or friend who has taken their own life. Suicide is a problem that has touched nearly every American in some way. Every September, during national suicide prevention month, we bring awareness to this ongoing issue and remind ourselves of just how prevalent suicide is in our society.

Unfortunately suicide is the tenth leading cause of death nationally, and the tenth leading cause of death in Missouri. These numbers are even more staggering with America’s youth, where suicide is the second leading cause of death. 129 Americans die by suicide each day, and in Missouri, one person takes their own life every 8 hours. This is entirely preventable.

There is a lot that family, friends, and colleagues can do to try to prevent someone they know from taking their own life. The number one thing you can do is ask an at-risk individual if they are having suicidal thoughts. If you’ve been admitted to a hospital lately you were most likely asked that very question. It may be an uncomfortable question, but it is an important one. Studies show that people feel relief when they can open up to someone about their suicidal thoughts. If you continue to be there and follow up with an at-risk individual, their likelihood of dying by suicide can decrease drastically.

While we can sometimes prevent suicide at the individual level, it is also essential that Congress works to provide the resources needed for at-risk individuals to get the help they need. Last year, Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which instructed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to study the feasibility and effectiveness of designating a three-digit number for the national suicide prevention hotline. Once implemented, a three-digit number would make it easier for individuals to connect with a lifeline counselor and receive the resources they need. In addition to this, Kansas City area Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and I have introduced the Cady Housh and Gemesha Thomas Student Suicide Prevention Act. If passed into law, this bill would provide more resources to states for mental health services and suicide prevention training for school staff. Congress should not stand idly by while suicide plagues America’s youth. This bill would be a step in the right direction towards preventing young people from taking their own lives.

One thing I always tell people and the number one thing I hear from suicide prevention advocates is that we need to remember that suicide is preventable. It is on us be there for individuals thinking about suicide in their time of need. If you are thinking about suicide, there is help out there for you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends or family or use the national suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), to speak to a lifeline counselor. Suicide is preventable, and if we all work together, we can reduce the number of suicides in our society. 

For more information on my activities in our district and in Washington, I encourage you to follow my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Rep.Billy.Long and my Twitter page at https://twitter.com/USRepLong. You can also subscribe to my weekly newsletter, "Long's Short Report," by visiting https://longforms.house.gov/newsletter-and-email-updates-form

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