More than 40 representatives from local mental health organizations gathered on Monday, July 31, 2017 to launch the Tompkins Suicide Prevention Coalition. The coalition began as a collaboration between the NYS Office of Mental Health (OMH), Tompkins County Mental Health Services (TCMHS), Suicide Prevention & Crisis Services (SPCS), Care Compass Network (CCN), and The Sophie's Fund.

"It's inspiring to see the breadth of the organizations and individuals represented," said Frank Kruppa, Mental Health Commissioner. "It's one of the things that makes Tompkins County special: when we have these types of issues, we are able to get folks in the room and talk about how we are going to tackle them."

Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health Services Sharon MacDougall, the coalition's organizer, said that the county seeks to foster greater collaboration in suicide prevention among the array of agencies and groups who deal with the issue. During the day-long meeting, Garra Lloyd-Lester, associate director of the Suicide Prevention Center New York, briefed the participants on steps toward creating a successful suicide prevention coalition and presided over a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis.

Lee-Ellen Marvin, executive director of the Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service of Tompkins County, told the gathering that while Tompkins County's suicide rate last year was seven deaths per 100,000, the actual number of suicide deaths jumped from four in 2014 and five in 2015 to 11 in 2016. "We can't be complacent about suicide loss," she said.

Marvin, whose agency has spearheaded suicide prevention in the area since 1969 by staffing a crisis hotline, after-trauma services, and education programs, listed two goals she hoped the coalition would help advance. The first is better understanding of people at risk in certain communities and how to reach them. The second is adoption of the Zero Suicide Initiative, a commitment to suicide prevention in health and behavioral health care systems.

"What we need to communicate is that there is hope, there is help, and that there is absolutely no shame in getting help," she concluded.