Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is part of a bipartisan group making a push to increase funds for suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A release from Merkley said lawmakers are asking Senate leadership to provide the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with $80 million to support critical prevention activities amid a public health crisis “that is upending the social and financial stability of countless Americans”.
Merkley and his colleagues sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It comes as Congress has started discussing the next coronavirus relief legislation.
The letter said “millions of individuals are experiencing heightened levels of fear, anxiety, social isolation, stress and more”. It said those factors, when felt concurrently, effect a person’s mental health and “often to lead to increased episodes of suicidal ideation”.
In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34, according to the release. It said that individualized interventions provided by crisis hotlines and mobile response teams can help reduce factors that culminate in suicide attempts.
The senators are recommending that Congress allocate $50 million to respond to current and future crisis call volume, and an additional $30 million to expand crisis chat capacity, including an effort to increase accessibility by shortening the Lifelines phone number from ten digits to three.