The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to declare suicide a public health crisis, with hopes of addressing mental illness and providing more access to services for residents of the Maryland county at risk of suicide.
Councilman Nathan Volke introduced the resolution, which directs county health officials to, beginning immediately, “identify residents affected by mental illness and offer adequate treatment and services to help those affected and at risk of death by suicide.”
Of the 209 documented deaths caused by guns in Anne Arundel County between 2013 and 2017, 141 — 67% percent — were determined to be suicides, a number said to be steadily worsening both in number and frequency according to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health.
Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in the county.
Volke himself is a member of Anne Arundel County’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He lost a family member to suicide by firearm, the Capital Gazette reported, and was inspired by the findings to take action.
While backing further action to combat suicide and treat mental illness, county health officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman argued in a statement to the council that suicide did not meet the threshold of “crisis” — a term which carries certain state and federal implications.
Volke did not consult Kalyanaraman in drafting his resolution, the Gazette reported.
While not rejecting the task force’s recommendations, County Executive Steuart Pittman argued the focus should be on addressing gun violence in Anne Arundel County in order to prevent deaths by suicide in addition to violent crimes including burglaries and rape.
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