Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Centerstone Recognizes Buchanan as Champion for Mental Health

Oct 18, 2021
Press Release
Suicide Tenth Leading Cause of Death in U.S.
4 in 10 Adults Experienced Mental Health Issue Amid Pandemic

BRADENTON, Fla. – Congressman Vern Buchanan was recently recognized by Centerstone for his leadership on mental health issues in Congress.

Since 2003, the mental health and substance abuse service provider has hosted an annual 5k/10k that draws over 1,000 local race registrants and several hundred virtual participants to commemorate National Suicide Prevention Month. To thank community leaders, sponsors and invited guests, Centerstone hosts the “Before Dawn” reception, where they honored Buchanan with the 2021 Life;Story Champion Award for his successful efforts helping to secure passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act.  The bill, which established a universal telephone hotline (9-8-8) to help people experiencing a mental health crisis, was signed into law in October 2020.

“I am honored to receive this award and fortunate to work so closely with Centerstone advocating for suicide prevention and mental health awareness,” said Buchanan. “Millions of Americans struggle with devastating mental health issues including depression, social isolation and loneliness. I will continue to do everything in my power to provide much-needed support for those quietly suffering with mental health issues and to improve the federal mental health system.”

Melissa Larkin-Skinner, chief executive officer of Centerstone in Florida said, “Centerstone is honored to recognize Congressman Buchanan with the 2021 Centerstone Life;Story Champion Award for his commitment to preventing suicide and ensuring access to mental health resources.  His legislative leadership and co-sponsorship of the groundbreaking designation of the 9-8-8 dialing code represents the most important development to reduce suicide in the United States to date. The availability of 988 will make it easier for millions of people to access crisis care, whenever and wherever they need it. This is especially important in the wake of increased isolation, stress, fear, grief, depression, substance use, and suicidal thoughts we’re experiencing since COVID-19 upended our lives.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of over 47,000 Americans annually.

During the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported having feelings of anxiety or depression, up from 1 in 10 adults during the first half of 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  A poll in July 2020 also found that many adults have experienced negative impacts on their mental health including difficulty sleeping, difficulty eating, increased alcohol consumption and substance abuse, and worsening chronic conditions over stress of the coronavirus.

Buchanan recently backed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act to help combat suicide and mental health issues among frontline health care workers. This bill would train health care professionals in best practices to reduce and prevent suicide, create a national awareness campaign encouraging them to seek support, help them understand and support their colleagues, and create a study on mental health issues and burnout related to the pandemic. 

In addition to his civilian mental health advocacy, Buchanan has also championed legislation to investigate the link between addictive opioids and veteran suicides. A Buchanan provision was recently successfully included in a sweeping U.S. House-passed government funding bill to provide $2 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to investigate the link between highly addictive opioids and the alarmingly high rate of suicides among veterans within the last five years. The amendment is critical to learning if prescription drugs, particularly opioid painkillers, are a contributing factor in veteran suicides.