CDC data on death by suicide concerns Schlossberg
House leader laments lack of Senate action on $100 million investment
HARRISBURG, Dec. 4 – State Rep. Mike Schlossberg said last week’s initial release of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows death by suicide increased again in 2022 in the United States. At least 49,449 people died due to intentional self-harm. This marks the highest number since the CDC started tracking this data in 1941.
To put this into context, the total population of Upper Macungie Township and South Whitehall Township is estimated to be approximately 49,000 people, according to Schlossberg.
In 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 1,878 deaths by suicide, which marked an increase over 2020 (1,686) and continued a trend over the past decade of incremental increases in suicide as a cause of death. Additionally, deaths resulting from overdoses and other outcomes attributed to mental health conditions have also increased.
“This is a major, accelerating crisis -- and one that we must do something about,” said Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, who is PA House Majority Caucus chairman.
“The good news is that we are making progress. The launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has generated about 7 million calls, texts and chats. The overwhelming challenge now is finding help when help is sought. Providers and patients across the country report long wait times to be seen by mental health providers.
“The bad news? It's not enough. Over the past couple of years, many of us in Harrisburg have sounded the alarm and introduced solutions to improve mental health care in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the places where new and increased immediate mental health resources can best be deployed -- through counties and our community schools -- have been neglected. To their credit, leaders in county governments have been sounding the alarm since budget cuts were made and never restored under Governor Tom Corbett. Likewise, school leaders have shared the challenges they face as behavioral health and mental health needs for students of all ages continue to become more pronounced.
“We have an opportunity to deliver those resources, but I seriously question whether some of my colleagues have the will to do so. Nothing is more frustrating than listening to my colleagues lament our ongoing mental health crisis but be unwilling to make needed investments. How else can we have a bipartisan agreement to fund lifesaving mental health resources in my proposal to allocate $100 million one year, but in the following year, see the same proposal bottled up in the Senate and with less support from Republicans in the House? Perhaps they will prove me wrong, and the Senate majority will move the legislation so we can send it to Governor Josh Shapiro for signature.
“The notion that our country could lose the equivalent population of Upper Macungie Township and South Whitehall Township due to inadequate mental health care should be appalling to each of us. We have work to do in the United States and in Pennsylvania. I think many of us in Harrisburg are committed to doing our part, but we cannot do it alone,” Schlossberg said.