Senator Marisol Alcántara & Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa Celebrate Landmark Suicide Prevention Bill Becoming Law

Governor Cuomo signs into law the Suicide Prevention Act to study disproportionate rates of suicide among Latina youth, LGBT youth, veterans, and other vulnerable populations.

New York, NY - State Senator Marisol Alcántara (D-Manhattan), together with Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa (D-Inwood), celebrated Governor Cuomo signing their bill, The Suicide Prevention Act, into law. Both lawmakers had introduced this legislation to renew the state’s focus on higher rates of suicide among LGBT New Yorkers, veterans, and in particular, Latina adolescents.

The law streamlines the delivery of mental health services for at-risk populations through the Office of Mental Health, and requires the agency to evaluate different demographics like Latinas who suffer significantly higher suicide rates.

In 2015, one in four of New York State’s Hispanic youth considered suicide and one in seven attempted suicide. At the same time, only 35% of Hispanics with depression received care as opposed to 60% of whites. Furthermore, just 1% of the American Psychology Association identified themselves as Latino, and many bilingual Latinos are unable to find mental health treatment in their native language.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Latina adolescents, and it is past time New York State did something about it,” said Senator Alcántara. “I was very pleased that the Governor saw the need for a task force to tackle the issue, and was glad to work with his office to make the Office of Mental Health responsible for studying the issue of suicide across the state. Suicide affects all of us, no matter where we are in the state, and it leaves thousands of aching holes in people’s lives. We must learn to intervene in mental illness before it becomes so serious that individuals contemplate self-harm, and we must completely do away with the stigma against mental illness in our society.”

"The passage in the state legislature and now the signage into law of The Suicide Prevention Act is a major step in the fighting to end the epidemic of suicide in our communities.” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa “We know that in New York State, suicide is the second leading cause of death among our youth, and if we take a closer look Latina girls and Black boys are attempting suicide at disproportionate rates. The loss of one child and the impact of those left behind are too much for our communities to continue to bear. The Suicide Prevention Act will direct the State Office of Mental Health to develop programs and research the causes for the alarming data we are seeing in terms of Suicide, especially in minority communities. We will continue to advocate along with our state colleagues to find solutions to this heartbreaking epidemic and will not rest until the number of suicides among our youth is at zero."

“Having known personally the loss of a loved one by suicide, and how often I have questioned what might have been done to prevent it, this establishment of the Adolescent Suicide Prevention Advisory Commission is an emotional one for me,” said Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda. “Thousands of adolescent Latinos, already going through emotionally-charged years, are dying or injuring themselves. What cost can you put on a human life? Right now, there is too little budgeted for state prevention programs in general, and none specifically for Latinos, although the numbers show they are the most at-risk. The establishment of this commission is a major step in focusing on that problem. I salute Governor Cuomo for recognizing the need for this commission.”

“This Suicide Prevention Act will raise awareness about a health crisis that is causing tremendous, yet preventable, suffering. I applaud Senator Alcantara, Assembly Member De La Rosa, Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature for acknowledging the urgent need to empower suicide prevention service providers and advocates with the tools needed to strengthen and enhance our life-saving work”, said Dr. Rosa M. Gil, President and CEO of Comunilife, Inc. and the founder of Life is Precious™, Comunilife’s landmark suicide prevention program for Latina adolescents.

“This bill will enhance the delivery of much-needed suicide prevention services, address the disparities between minority adolescents and their peers and, hopefully, increase the utilization of promising community, volunteer and faith-based services, like Samaritans, that have not been included in the current state mental health infrastructure,” said Alan Ross, Executive Director, Samaritans Suicide Prevention Center.

“Senator Marisol Alcantara, Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa and the Governor have passed legislation that will save lives by providing more attention and resources to support young Latinas with mental health needs. This new task force will help reduce the stigma of discussing suicide and will strengthen communities suffering from this epidemic.” said Kara Berkowitz of the Jewish Board.

"This groundbreaking, compassionate Adolescent Suicide Prevention Act will mandate the expansion and the refinement of the current mental health system to fine tune its attention to young people who are severely in need of such attention and immediate intervention, it will do so in an empathic, culturally competent manner, and in so doing, literally save scores of precious young lives. Assemblywoman De La Rosa, Senator Alcantara, and Governor Cuomo should all be commended for listening so diligently to those most in need.” Charles Corliss, Ph.D., ABPP Executive Director Inwood Community Services, Inc.