Senior Connections

Healthcare and Treatment for Mental Illness

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and during this time, we must reflect on the sad reality that suicide remains a leading cause of death in our state and throughout the country. I encourage all Nevadans to learn more and teach others about the seriousness of suicide and to continue prevention efforts beyond this month.

The devastating impact of suicide is a reality for far too many families, including my own. Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to pass legislation to address suicide and help those with mental illnesses get the treatment they need. I proudly took part in the creation of the very first National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, which is a framework for suicide prevention that draws on work from clinicians, researchers, survivors and advocates. And I have worked to address suicide among seniors by supporting legislation that lowered Medicare coinsurance for outpatient mental health services.

Treating mental illness is an important part of curbing the rate of suicide, and mental illness must be treated on par with other physical illnesses. This is why I helped pass mental health parity legislation in 1996 and 2008. In addition, I was proud to support expanded access to community mental health services in the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we have expanded mental health and substance abuse services to millions of Americans, including 550,516 Nevadans. 

We must realize that suicide can affect individuals of any age, gender and ethnicity. That’s why I was an original cosponsor of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, a law that targets youth suicide through additional funding for research, training, and technical assistance. We still have more work to do and I am proud to cosponsor the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act Reauthorization Act, which would renew and expand these initiatives. 

Compassion and care are among the most important forms of support you can provide. Since the time of my father’s suicide, the country has worked to reduce the stigma associated with suicide, and it is now considered a national public health crisis.

We have made great strides in the ways suicide is addressed. Suicide is preventable, and by working together we can ensure the number of individuals, families and friends affected will continue to decrease over time. As Nevadans, we must remain diligent in our efforts to strengthen our communities.