SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Heather Steans ( D-Chicago ) spoke at a press conference today with leaders from the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( AFSP ) about her legislation that would develop a new state suicide prevention strategy.
Steans' measure creates the Office of Suicide Prevention within the Department of Public Health in order to address suicide in Illinois, which caused more deaths in 2016 than homicide, motor vehicle accidents and prevalent diseases like liver disease, hypertension and HIV.
"Each suicide death caused loved ones left behind to wonder if they could have done anything differently," Steans said. "The state has lagged behind in this area."
There is currently no department charged with looking into ways to prevent suicide, which caused nearly 1,500 deaths in Illinois in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available.
Steve Moore, AFSP Illinois Chapter Board co-chair and National Public Policy Council member, joined Senator Steans to discuss best practices to prevent suicide and present an art project depicting the scope of suicides in Illinois.
Throughout the day on Wednesday, advocates at the Capitol placed 1,474 rose petals on an 8-foot poster inside the word "HOPE" as a graphic illustration of the number of Illinois residents lost to suicide.
"AFSP's advocates have a personal stake in improving Illinois' suicide prevention efforts," Moore said. "They have lost someone to suicide or fought against suicide themselves and want to ensure that others do not have to endure the same experience."
Senate Bill 1425 has been assigned to the Senate Public Health Committee.