Pa. legislators work to add suicide awareness information to state parks and forests
Since 2010, 164 suicides have occurred at Pennsylvania state parks and forests, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Two legislators hope awareness can help save lives.
Reps. Kristen Marcell, R-Bucks, and Kathleen Tomlinson, R-Bucks, plan to introduce legislation requiring state parks and forests to have signs providing suicide awareness information, and the number to the suicide hotline.
Since 2007, at least five suicides occurred at Tyler State Park in their home county.
Even if there is a small chance of an effect, the awareness can be a good way to prevent a tragedy, Marcell said.
“It’s definitely a step worth taking in my opinion,” Marcell said.
The information would be at places with prominent foot traffic, but if there are particular areas with a history of suicides or attempts, park or forest managers could decide to put the information there as well, Marcell said.
“And so really try to cover as many areas as possible,” Marcell said.
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, is a cosponsor of the bill. Kenyatta has been an advocate for suicide awareness since college, where he started Students Together Ending Pain and Suicide, STEPS, after a friend died by suicide.
He said more needs to be done to make suicide less likely.
“What I think we have to do is think of all the different ways that we can give people the thing that they need when they’re struggling with suicidal ideations,” Kenyatta said.
Forests, in general, can be considered a “suicide hotspot,” or places where people are able to die by suicide without intervention, according to the scientific journal Biomed Central.
The spots typically include tall structures such as bridges or towers, many of which already have signage with suicide awareness information.
According to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate in Pennsylvania is 13.9 per 100,000 people. It is almost on par with the national average of 14.1 and nearly twice as high as neighboring New York and New Jersey.
The DCNR will review the legislation once finalized and monitor its progress in the legislature.
Note: If you are thinking about suicide or if you or someone you know is in emotional crisis, call or text 988 any time for confidential and free crisis support.