Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Alarming Rise of Suicide Attempts Among Children

Sep 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – With the national suicide rate at its highest level since World War II, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced today he has co-sponsored legislation to establish a universal telephone hotline (9-8-8) to help people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Buchanan said suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming 47,000 lives annually. Alarmingly, suicide attempts have skyrocketed among children in recent years, according to federal officials.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act authorizes states to collect a small fee to fund the operation of local crisis call centers across the country. Last month, the FCC issued a report finding that a three-digit number dedicated to suicide prevention would make it easier for Americans in need to connect with lifesaving resources.

“We need to do a better job getting assistance to those in mental health crisis,” Buchanan said. “By making it easier to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and devoting resources towards these crisis centers, we can have an immediate impact in reducing suicide.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, for those ages 10 to 34, suicide was the second-leading cause of death and the fourth-leading cause among people ages 35 to 54.

The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest level since World War II and has risen by 33% since 1999. Tragically, suicide attempts among children have skyrocketed in recent years with poisoning attempts more than doubling. The Journal of Pediatrics has reported that poisoning attempts by girls aged 10 to 12 rose by more than 265 percent between 2010 and 2017, with an increase of more than 140 percent for girls aged 13 to 15 over the same period.

The bill is endorsed by organizations including the American Legion and Centerstone, a leading mental health facility in Bradenton.  

“Suicide is preventable. Everyone in our communities, in our nation, has to be involved,” said Melissa Larkin-Skinner, CEO Centerstone Florida. “We all have to work together to achieve zero suicides. Thank you to Congressman Buchanan for recognizing the need for a National Suicide Hotline 3-digit number that is easy to remember.”

Suicides among veterans have also remained at near record highs in recent years as an astonishing 20 veterans and active-duty service members commit suicide every day. These account for 18 percent of all suicides nationwide. Among veterans younger than 35, the number of suicides has increased dramatically.

Buchanan has previously called for greater funding to help veterans cope with the mental health issues that lead so many to take their own lives. Buchanan also introduced the Veterans Overmedication and Suicide Prevention Act, which requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to study the link between addictive opioids and the alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans.

The Congressman has also demanded answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs after it was revealed that the VA failed to spend millions of dollars allocated for suicide prevention efforts. 

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act was introduced last month and is pending consideration in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and the Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HELLO to 741741. Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.