Escobar: San Jose should prioritize suicide prevention policy

Today, the San Jose City Council will decide their priorities for the year. It is critical that Councilmember Raul Peralez’s suicide prevention policy be among them.

Between 2011 and 2016, nearly 400 San Jose residents died by suicide. This was more than any other city in Santa Clara County. More people died by suicide each year in the city of San Jose than in car crashes or by gun violence.

Nationally, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. More shocking and tragic, it is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24. And LGBTQ youth are 5 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to attempt suicide.  

Every year, over 45,000 Americans die by suicide, and 25 times that number attempt to take their lives. This is higher than the 35,000 Americans who die by gun each year — a fact made more striking when you consider that 62 percent (21,000) of gun deaths are suicides.

That last fact is worth a pause. The majority of gun deaths in our country are people shooting themselves, not someone else.

Suicide is a crisis — for our national and local communities. And we can all play a meaningful role in reducing the number of these preventable deaths.

Councilmember Peralez’s memo instructs city staff to create, in collaboration with the community, a suicide prevention policy for the city of San Jose.  The objectives of this policy are to build awareness about suicide and suicide prevention through existing city events and programs; to work in close collaboration with existing county and state agencies and programs; and, to create a communications plan to share out important information and resources available to city residents.

Developing this policy would require limited staff time, have little to no cost on the city’s impacted budget, and would send a powerful message of support to the many San Joseans struggling with suicide.

A number of cities across the Santa Clara County have already passed suicide prevention policies — Los Gatos, Milpitas, Mountain View, Morgan Hill, and Palo Alto.  It is time for San Jose to join them.

If you share this sense of urgency, join a coalition of residents and organizations, led by BAYMEC, NAMI Santa Clara County, the Silicon Valley Young Democrats and the Billy DeFrank Center. Contact your Councilmember and encourage them to support Councilmember Peralez’s suicide prevention memo.

The impact City Hall can have on this difficult subject is significant. It is time for our civic leaders to act. And we, as a community, must support them in doing so.

Only by working together can we reduce stigma and save lives.

Paul Escobar is the president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a four-county LGBTQ+ political action group.

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