The New York state Office of Mental Health is taking steps to prevent suicide.

The office Thursday reconvened the suicide prevention task force to enhance statewide prevention efforts with a renewed focus on helping at-risk populations. That includes communities of color disproportionally impacted by suicide or suicidal ideation. Established in partnership with the Office of Mental Health's Suicide Prevention Center of New York, the task force will build on existing prevention efforts and explore the mental health challenges laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said the move will help with New Yorkers’ recovery from the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“This pandemic also highlighted the disparities in care that exist for at risk communities. This Task Force will build on existing prevention strategies and elevate the voices of individuals in these communities to develop recommendations to ensure a more equitable and inclusive suicide prevention plan in New York State.”           

The task force will expand on work done by the 2017 suicide prevention task force. A resulting 2019 report brought recommendations that included strengthening foundations for public health suicide prevention approaches; building health system competencies and pathways to mental health care; improving surveillance methods, tools, and access to timely data; and infusing cultural competence throughout suicide prevention activities.

The state said 1,660 New Yorkers died by suicide in 2021, making it the second leading cause of death among individuals 25-34, as well as the third leading cause of death for youth and young adults aged 10-24.

While there haven’t been significant changes in the suicide rate since 2012, a recent report by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted racial and ethnic disparities, including among Black and Hispanic individuals. Between 2018 and 2021, the suicide rate among Black individuals increased by about 19%, while increasing 7% among Hispanic individuals.

The task force recommendations will build on existing efforts focused on these populations, while joining efforts earlier this month to assist agencies who serve at-risk youth or young adults from historically underserved, racial and ethnic minority populations, and LGBQIA+ groups.