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After recent Syracuse murder-suicide, Schumer calls for more suicide prevention funding

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Sen. Charles Schumer, center, with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh, left.

The national suicide rate has risen by more than 30 percent in the past 20 years and is at its highest level since World War II. The suicide rates for central New York counties, including Onondaga, Oswego and Oneida, are all above the state average. 

Speaking in Syracuse Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said federal funding to address the issue has basically stayed flat over the past several years. He is calling on Congress to boost funding to two federal grant programs and to pass one piece of pending legislation. The grants would provide training to health care providers on how to recognize the signs of suicide risk and how to intervene.

"These don’t have to be psychiatrists or neurologists, just people who generally provide health care to recognize tell-tale signs,” Schumer said. “We’ve done some of this in mental illness and it’s much improved. Regular health care practitioners recognize the signs of depression and some bipolar stuff more easily than they did before, and that has helped referrals to go to the right places.”

Some grants also target the most at-risk populations, including young people. Schumer is also pushing a bill that would increase the number of medical school spots for mental health doctors.

“And I am confident, if we are able to do the things I mentioned, the number of people committing suicide would decline,” Schumer said. “Suicide is not always preventable, but it is often preventable.”    

Standing with Schumer, Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said the issue hits home, with the recent murder-suicide of a mother and her three children in the city, earlier this month.

“I couldn’t help but think, as I stood there onsite, that we owe it to our constituents and community to do better,” Walsh said. “We have to do better.”

There are around 49 suicides every year in Onondaga County.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.