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OC Health Care Agency announces Office of Suicide Prevention

The OC Health Care Agency (HCA) is pleased to announce the creation of the Office of Suicide Prevention.

The Office of Suicide Prevention, which officially commenced operations on August 2, 2021, will coordinate suicide prevention efforts at the agency level and interface with local and statewide initiatives to identify and facilitate the implementation of evidence-based and promising suicide prevention activities in Orange County.

“When the Countywide Suicide Prevention Initiative (CSPI) was launched in 2019, our goal was to increase awareness and accessibility to resources,” says Andrew Do, Chairman of the Board of the Supervisors and the Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee. “We want to empower community organizations and other interested individuals to collaborate with us in promoting suicide prevention activities for Orange County residents. I am proud to support the Office of Suicide Prevention as they lead these efforts moving forward.”

These efforts include:

  • Overseeing key HCA suicide prevention and stigma reduction programming
  • Distributing federal, state and local resources pertaining to suicide prevention and stigma reduction
  • Coordinating data collection and analysis efforts around this topic and serve as a subject matter expert on this topic, and
  • Serving as HCA lead and liaison for other suicide prevention efforts, including the CSPI

“As you may know, September is a time in which we promote suicide prevention awareness throughout the month,” says Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, Vice Chair of the Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee. “Orange County averages about 330 suicide deaths per year, and one death alone is already too many. This is a critical resource that will truly continue to support our community.”

Among its efforts thus far to raise local and global awareness of suicide prevention and stigma reduction, the Office of Suicide Prevention is: organizing a two-day virtual conference on October 14-15; making available a Calendar of Events for contracted providers and other partners; partnering with the Los Angeles Angels on a social media campaign for the second year in a row; and developing a new interactive data tool, currently in testing phase, that will provide open access to data related to suicide deaths in Orange County.

“There is a lot of great work already underway as we enhance this work with the resources of this new Office of Suicide Prevention,” says Dr. Jeffrey Nagel, Director of Behavioral Health Services which oversees the new office. “In particular, stigma is a primary barrier resulting in untreated/delayed mental health treatment, which can result in devastating consequences sometimes including suicide. Through the Office of Suicide Prevention, we can further support the community with stigma-reduction efforts related to mental illness.”

On September 14, the Orange County Board of Supervisors presented the HCA with two resolutions to recognize important areas in behavioral health. The first resolution declares the week of September 5-11 as Suicide Prevention Week, highlighting the importance of knowing the warning signs for suicide, how to reach out to those experiencing an emotional crisis and how to connect to resources. The second declares the month of September as Recovery Happens Month, bringing awareness to the importance of treatment and recovery services, knowing the signs of mental illness and substance use disorders, and encouraging those in need of recovery services to seek help and break the stigma surrounding recovery.

“Some of us may have been touched by the tragedy of suicide,” says Dr. Bhuvana Rao, Division Manager of the Office of Suicide Prevention. “It is important to know that suicide prevention is not necessarily about convincing someone not to die. It is about giving them reasons for living, giving them hope. We can all play a role in suicide prevention, because it’s never too early to start a conversation with someone we care about.”

Dr. Rao encourages everyone to take a few minutes to learn about the warning signs and find the words to reach out to someone they may be concerned about, by visiting www.suicideispreventable.org. If you or someone you know is in need of support with an emotional crisis or thinking about suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7 at (800) 273-8255.

For additional information about the Office of Suicide Prevention, please contact Dr. Rao at (714) 834-2863 or [email protected].

This article was released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.