In Kentucky, an average of 500 people each year take their own lives. Nationally, that figure is nearly 30,000, according to Barbara Kaminer, staff member at the Cabinet for Health Services.
But suicides are largely preventable, when early signs of depression and suicidal thoughts are recognized and those suffering are able to seek help, Kaminer said.
"Our mission is to have one person in every household who can recognize the warning signs of suicide," Kaminer said.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Monday heard testimony from health officials and survivors on the necessity for a suicide prevention task force. The Senate committee unanimously approved a joint resolution, known as SJR 148, to establish a task force under the Cabinet for Health and Human Services.
Funding for the task force will come out of the cabinet's budget. The General Assembly will appropriate no additional money for the group.
The task force, which is already in existence, is charged with raising awareness, training and curriculum development and research and evaluation for suicide prevention. Proponents of the task force say they support the idea because suicide is preventable when warning signs are recognized and people seek help.
Kaminer opened the hearing with startling figures on suicide, pointing to statistics showing for every two homicides in Kentucky there are three suicides. She said Kentucky ranks 16th in the nation in suicide rates.
Committee chairman Sen. Tom Buford said it's for time the state's lawmakers to address the issue.
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