WASHINGTON — Suicide is preventable, but not all Americans have access to effective treatment and crisis intervention, a member of the American Psychological Association told a congressional panel Thursday.
“Because the risk factors associated with suicide are multifaceted and vary across groups, suicide prevention demands comprehensive, evidence-based efforts across many settings,” Joel Dvoskin, PhD, told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “We need to ensure that our health care system reimburses not only for suicide assessment but also for depression and substance abuse screening and treatment. Providers across the health care delivery system need to be trained in assessing suicide risk, suicide management and treatment through using therapies especially devised for these problems.”
Dvoskin — an APA member who is a practicing clinical and forensic psychologist and faculty member of the University of Arizona School of Medicine — testified on behalf of APA. He noted that suicide consistently ranks among the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, and that the main cause of suicide is despair.
“Suicide is often an impulsive act, where an individual is desperate to relieve their suffering and knows no other way,” he said. “Suicide risk can be reduced through identifying and providing support to address the factors that drive a person to consider suicide.”
Suicide is also a problem across the lifespan, he noted.
“Among youth, suicide ranks high as a cause of death, and is often preceded by childhood trauma, bullying or other abuse,” he said, calling prevention of child maltreatment essential. “However, increasing age is also a risk factor, and the fastest growing rates of suicide are found among middle-aged and older adults.”
Dvoskin called on Congress to:
- Increase access to screening for depression, suicide and other mental health concerns across the lifespan;
- Ensure insurance coverage for prevention services;
- Improve access by increasing the number of trained health care professionals, including psychologists and other mental health professionals;
- Support reauthorization of essential behavioral health programs, such as the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act;
- Support programs such as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network;
- Increase dissemination of evidence-based treatments for all populates and ages.
“Over the many years I have worked in this field, I have seen tremendous progress in identifying approaches to reduce completed suicides, attempts, ideation and feelings,” said Dvoskin, who also serves as chairman of the Nevada Governor’s Advisory Panel on Behavioral Health and Wellness. “However, we do not implement these tools effectively and broadly enough. We must reduce the barriers to violence prevention and mental health treatment for all Americans and provide the community supports so that our citizens can build lives of meaning and purpose.”
The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.