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Suicide Prevention Committee Takes Action
MHSA Program Highlight

Article Colin T. Hart, Community Health Planner
SP Roadmap

Suicide is a public health issue that affects all San Mateo County residents. Suicide can have an effect on family members, friends and the community. These effects are often devastating and can last for long periods of time, yet suicide is preventable. With support from the Mental Health Services Act, the San Mateo County Suicide Prevention Committee provides oversight and direction to suicide prevention efforts in San Mateo County. The Suicide Prevention Committee’s strategic work plan guides and connects efforts to reduce suicide overall with a focus on high risk communities. This strategic plan was incorporated in the newly released San Mateo County Suicide Prevention Roadmap

With a robust Suicide Prevention Roadmap in place, the Suicide Prevention Committee dedicated their resources to form a sub-committee to design an action plan to carry out the strategic direction of the road map. I wondered what that would look like in a large and diverse county where different communities often have differentiating views of what suicide prevention looks like to them.  I set out to meet with the co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Committee, Sylvia Tang, to help me understand what’s next for San Mateo County’s suicide prevention efforts.

Q: Could you explain to me how the Suicide Prevention Roadmap came to be?

A: The foundation of the Roadmap stems from the Suicide Prevention Committee Strategic Planning Session that was completed in the fall of 2014. As a result of the strategic planning process, the Suicide Prevention Committee came up with  prevention strategies, desired outcomes, organizations and programs addressing each strategy and future recommended activities. Multiple public and non-profit agencies provided input in the strategic planning and publication writing process.

Q: This seems like a large under taking, how does a county know where to start to take on such a complex topic?

A: To tackle such a robust strategic plan, we created an action plan which helps identify what and when to prioritize in our suicide prevention efforts. A sub-committee of the Suicide Prevention Committee has taken on the task of reviewing, advising and overseeing execution of the action plan.

Q. What are some of the key activities that San Mateo County needs to start moving the roadmap?

A. With the support of the Mental Health Services Act, San Mateo County needs to build our suicide prevention community through community education, provider trainings and intimate conversations about suicide prevention.  In general, we need to reduce stigma around suicide and build partnerships in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.

Q: Can one person make a difference in reducing suicides in San Mateo County?  What can we do? 

A: We all have a role to play in preventing suicide in San Mateo County, so one person can make a difference for a loved one, community and society. In whatever role you have in your organization or community, you can be a key partner in our suicide prevention efforts. Some actions you can take include joining the Suicide Prevention Committee, recognizing September Suicide Prevention Month and talking about suicide as a public health issue that we all have a role in preventing. 

The Mental Health Services Act and Suicide Prevention Committee recognize suicide is a public health issue that affects all San Mateo County residents.  We all have a responsibility in the prevention of suicide whether that be helping ourselves, a friend, a colleague, or a client, our collective action to prevent suicide can go a long way.  Get involved and join the Suicide Prevention Committee which meets every fourth Wednesday of the even months 1:30 – 3 p.m. at the San Mateo County Transit District (1250 San Carlos Ave, San Carlos, CA).  For more info, contact Sylvia Tang

If you or someone you know are in an emotional crisis or having thoughts of suicide, 24/7 help is available. Call the StarVista Crisis Hotline at (650) 579-0350, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255(TALK).  More info on suicide prevention.