Guest Column from State Representative Rick Carfagna
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
An issue that is incredibly important to me, and many Ohioans, is mental health. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a topic that is often difficult to talk about but needs to be, in order to remove the stigma that is often associated with mental illness. It has recently become even more vital to bring awareness to mental health with the prevalence of the opioid epidemic in Ohio, as addictions are so frequently closely correlated with mental illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), more than 41,000 people die by suicide each year, often leaving their friends and family behind without an answer as to why. We must do more as a society to get people struggling help and to make the issue easier and more acceptable to openly discuss. National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month helps to accomplish that, and I encourage you to stand with me in helping to raise awareness this month.
Earlier this year, the Ohio House did its part by passing legislation that helps those with a mental illness in an emergency setting to get the care they need. House Bill 111, which I was proud to sponsor, would allow a clinical nurse specialist or a certified nurse practitioner, who is specifically trained in psychiatric-mental health, to have an individual involuntarily hospitalized for mental health treatment in an emergency.
Current law permits psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, physicians, health officers, parole officers, police officers, and sheriffs the authority to make such a decision. By adding this specific type of nurse to this list we can further help our most vulnerable citizens when time is of the essence. This subset of nurses is properly trained to make this kind of evaluation and should have the authority to do so.
In these situations, those struggling with a mental illness may be unaware of the warning signs or could be a danger to themselves or others. If they can be hospitalized quickly, they can more efficiently receive the proper care, and this bill allows those steps to take place. The more people with a mental illness that we can help get care, the less prevalent suicide will be, working towards the goal of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, please contact the following organizations within the 68th House District for help: NAMI Knox/Licking County at 740-397-3088 or www.namiknoxohio.com and Central Ohio Mental Health at 740-369-4482 or www.comhc.net. As always, in case of emergencies, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.