Advocating for Suicide Prevention

Each year, AFSP’s Public Policy team mobilizes energetic volunteer Field Advocates across the country to urge public officials to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health. Together, we make bold strides at the federal, state, and local levels to pass suicide prevention policies that can save lives.

Our efforts this fiscal year resulted in the successful passage of six federal bills and 43 state bills that will make a difference in how we as a nation combat this leading cause of death.

Federal Advocacy for Suicide Prevention

AFSP continues to be at the forefront of the movement to make crisis services more accessible across the U.S. This past year, AFSP played a leading role in the supporting passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661), which designated 988 as the future universal phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. From meeting with members of Congress and federal agencies behind the scenes, to leading coalition activities and facilitating discussions with the telecom industry, AFSP ensured that S.2661 was a top priority for federal decision makers in 2020.

AFSP’s volunteer Field Advocates joined together with mental health and suicide prevention organizations across the U.S. in a Day of Action to urge Congress to move S.2661 forward. Our advocates sent 1,886 emails to members of Congress and 1,310 letters to media outlets across the country, demonstrating widespread public support for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s transition to 988 and influencing the unanimous passage of the bill before it was signed into law by the President in October.

AFSP also advocated for vital increases in federal suicide prevention funding during the Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations Process and through COVID-19 relief funding. Many of these increases were ultimately passed, including:

  • $24 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ($5 million increase over FY 20)
  • $12 million for suicide prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ($2 million increase over FY 20)
  • $9 million for the Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Resource Center ($1.02 million increase over FY 20)
  • Increased funding to the National Institute of Mental Health for research
  • Inclusion of suicide prevention for the first time as a research topic in the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program
  • Funding for community-based mobile crisis intervention services through Medicaid, and youth suicide prevention programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through the American Rescue Plan

Volunteer spotlight

I brought my two older daughters along with me to meetings on “The Hill” during past Advocacy Forums. My hope is that they will be even better advocates than I am. Throughout my AFSP journey, they have witnessed how impactful just one voice can be. They know their voice is powerful.

Jennifer Warnick
Central Texas Chapter

Read more
Advocates watching bill be signed.

Annual Advocacy Forum

The 12th Annual Advocacy Forum was held in June 2021, reaching over 10K people via Facebook Live. This year’s event featured 14 content experts including those from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Defense, National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors. Virtual attendees were educated on 10+ policy areas including federal funding for suicide prevention research; 988 and the continuum of crisis care; bridge barriers; suicide prevention in health systems; and tele-mental health.

Following the virtual presentation, AFSP’s volunteer advocates across all 50 states and D.C. met online or over the phone with over 200 members of Congress to urge support for AFSP’s top federal priorities.

Volunteer spotlight

I hope to see a world where mental health is treated the same as physical health, with science-based treatment options, and educational programs that give children the coping tools they need at that young age, and that they will continue to use throughout their lives.

Tim Krivanek
Washington State Chapter

Read more

State Advocacy for Suicide Prevention

Our advocacy for 988 and crisis services continued into 2021 on the state level, as every AFSP chapter across the country supported efforts to fund 988 and local crisis call centers as part of their State Capitol Day event. Together, our state efforts reached all corners of the country, with a State Capitol Day held in all 50 states and D.C., including three first-time events in Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington. Thousands of advocates participated in these events virtually, meeting with state public officials in support of 174 state bills in AFSP priority areas. Over 30 of these bills were signed into law by June 30, 2021. Some highlights include:

  • Nebraska, West Virginia, and Wisconsin extended workers’ compensation benefits to first responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah established programs to provide first responders with access to crisis services, peer support, and/or treatment for mental health conditions
  • Arkansas, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas enacted requirements for school districts and colleges/universities to include suicide prevention hotline information on all student ID cards
  • Oklahoma now requires that all school districts adopt suicide awareness and prevention policies and provide suicide awareness and prevention training to staff every 2 years
  • Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington put telecom user fees in place to fund 988 the same way as 911 and support local crisis call centers and response services
  • Oregon now requires mental health providers to complete regular suicide risk assessment, treatment, and management training
  • Missouri now requires health benefit plans that provide coverage for mental health conditions to meet the requirements and regulations of the federal Mental Health Parity law

In total, from July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021, AFSP volunteer Field Advocates created awareness and action regarding suicide prevention and mental health across the country, sending:

1.5K+ registered participants
21,051 emails to members of Congress 2,475 emails to state legislators 6,373 letters to the editors of local media outlets