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Hastings, Cullerton support suicide prevention

AFSP SPWAccording to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 40,000 suicides were reported in 2013. This places suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

September 6-12 is designated Suicide Prevention Week to help spread awareness about the severity of this issue and put a stop to the steady increase in yearly suicide rates.

The Illinois Senate recently passed legislation focused on preventing youth suicide, and it was signed into law on August 21. The sponsor of the legislation, Senator Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park), initiated the plan after a traumatic local experience.

“Ann Marie Blaha was a shining light in our community. She was a nice, 11-year-old girl with a great family involved in our community,” Hastings said. “Unfortunately she committed suicide and as a result her great parents have made it their mission to prevent other parents from having to go through this.”

Known as Ann Marie’s Law, the law allows the Illinois State Board of Education to develop guidelines for training and professional development to help educators recognize and respond to students displaying signs of suicidal behavior.

In addition to this, Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) was recently appointed to the Illinois Veteran Suicide Task Force. The Illinois Veteran Suicide Task Force was formed by a measure Cullerton led in 2014. The task force will investigate the causes of veteran suicide, form policy recommendations and report back to the General Assembly.

“Our veterans have risked their lives and made sacrifices to protect our freedom and democracy,” said Cullerton. “When they return home, it’s our duty to find ways to look out for them.”

A study released this year by Federal Department of Veterans Affairs and Army researchers suggests that the suicide risk for returning veterans who served in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is significantly higher — 41 percent to 61 percent higher — than for the general population.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention coined the Twitter hashtag #stopsuicide for those wishing to join the conversation on Twitter. Visit their site, afsp.org, to learn more about suicide prevention and explore a wide variety of resources available to help with suicide prevention.

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