Mission and Vision for Pennsylvania’s Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative



The Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative is a multi-system collaboration to
reduce youth suicide.



Youth suicide prevention will be embraced and incorporated into the fabric of every community in Pennsylvania to address the social and emotional needs of youth at risk and survivors of suicide.



Since the 1980s, Pennsylvania has made strong efforts to prevent youth suicide through programs such as the Student Assistance Program (SAP), Services for Teens at Risk (STAR-Center), the Yellow Ribbon Program, and a variety of other approaches in local areas. The Advisory Committee of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) prioritized a state suicide prevention plan as one of the major goals for OMHSAS. A work group was formed and began to meet in July 2005. This prevention plan is a collaborative effort between those dedicated individuals from both the public and private sectors of our state. The work group strives to raise awareness about suicide and its prevention so that fewer Pennsylvanians experience the pain and grief resulting from the suicide death of a loved one.


Suicide claims the lives of over 1,300 Pennsylvanians each year—an average of 3.5 lives each day. It is estimated that each suicide directly affects six people. Therefore, over 7,800 Pennsylvanians become survivors of suicide each year.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death of young people ages 15-24.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that approximately 500,000 teens attempt suicide each year.

Former US Surgeon General David Satcher presented the Call to Action to Prevent Suicide in 1999, in which he stated that the problems of suicide and suicide prevention are critical public health priorities for our nation.

The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention debuted in 2001.


Suicide Prevention Ribbon

bunched togetherHistory   In Atlanta, Georgia, two survivors of suicide, Sandy Martin and Michelle Linn-Gust, had a conversation about raising awareness of a health issue and a viscerally important cause. They started planning on a ribbon, a visual tool to raise suicide awareness and bring the cause out into the open. This ribbon would be for everyone, including survivors of suicide. Ultimately, the ribbon’s purpose would be to make the public cognizant of the issue and help prevent future suicide.

Why purple and teal?  Michelle and Sandy discussed the color extensively, and after realizing most causes already claimed solid colors, they decided on two colors. This seemed to fit, because the underlying cause of suicide has many layers. The two settled on the colors purple and teal, both considered healing colors by Native American tribes. Now, the purple and teal combination adorns the ribbons and bracelets of survivors and all those who wish to call for awareness and attention to the prevention of suicide.


Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Plan
Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Five-Year Action Plan, 2007-2012
PA Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative Structure and Goals, January 2012
Suicide and Self-Injury Among Pennsylvania Youth (Ages 10-24): data from the Department of Health’s Violence and Injury Prevention Program.


Our Adult Suicide Prevention Partner

If you are looking for information on suicide prevention in adults or older adults, please see the Pennsylvania Adult/Older Adult Suicide Prevention Coalition.


Current Executive Committee Members:

Erich Batra (Co-Chair) – Penn State University, Hershey Medical Center; Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Pennsylvania Child Death Review
Matthew Wintersteen (Co-Chair) – Thomas Jefferson University
Harriet Bicksler – Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Teri Erbacher – Delaware County Suicide Prevention and Awareness Task Force
Shaye Erhard – Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Paula McCommons – University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Services for Teens At-Risk (STAR) Center
Perri Rosen – Project Director, Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Grant in Pennsylvania
Beth Sprentz – Pennsylvania Network of Student Assistance Services
Marisa Vicere – Jana Marie Foundation

Members of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Committee

The Pennsylvania Suicide Prevention Initiative is a Public/Private Ongoing Collaborative including: Survivors of Suicide, Statewide & Regional Representatives from Departments of Public Welfare, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Education, and Aging, Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, County MH/MR Administrators Association and several county programs, County CASSP Coordinators, American Trauma Society, The STAR Center, PA Child Death Review Team, PA Protection and Advocacy, PA Psychiatric Society, PA Association of School Social Workers, NAMI of PA, Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Mental Health Association of PA, PIN of PA, PA Del Val NAPNAP, a County Medical Examiner, a City Health Bureau, a State University, a Behavioral Health MCO, Common Roads, Juvenile Detention Center Association of PA, Pennsylvania Community Providers Association, Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth, and Family Services, Providers and Student Assistance Program Trainers, School Districts, Yellow Ribbon Chapters, Feeling Blue Suicide Prevention Council, multiple county task forces and other grassroots organizations.