Runestad speaks of need to address suicide increase

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad on Tuesday spoke about the disturbing trend of the increasing suicide rate in the state and the legislation he introduced to tackle the issue.

“The increase in the number of suicides in Michigan and nationally is shocking,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We must determine why suicides are increasing, so we can take the necessary steps to address the problem. Senate Bill 228 will do just that.”

The lawmaker spoke about the issue on World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, which corresponds with National Suicide Prevention Week from Sept. 8-14.

Runestad said the increasing suicide rate is an alarming problem. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan’s suicide rate increased by 32.9 percent from 1999 to 2016.

SB 228 would create the Suicide Prevention Commission within the Legislative Council to study the causes and underlying factors of suicide in Michigan.

The 25-member commission would study the causes and underlying factors related to suicide and provide recommendations for state coordination on suicide prevention data collection and a coordinated state approach to the prevention of suicide.

Under the bill, the commission would:
• Work with state departments and agencies and nonprofit organizations to study the causes and underlying factors for the rise in suicides in Michigan. The study would focus on demographics showing the highest suicide rates in the state in the prior decade and the highest growth in suicide rates;
• Prepare and present a report of its findings and recommendations to the Legislature;
• Annually review and update any recommendations; and
• Provide recommendations for state coordination on suicide prevention data collection and a coordinated state approach to the prevention of suicide.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10- to 18-year-olds nationally. This is a public health crisis,” Runestad said. “Since there currently is no coordinated effort in the state to understand the risk factors, underlying causes and changing trends in suicide across demographics, we need to join other states that have created suicide prevention commissions that help get to the root causes of the crisis.”

SB 228 currently is in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Runestad said he hopes to see the committee send his bill to the full House this month.