Project 2025 is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s initiative to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20% by the year 2025. This project focuses on four targeted critical areas: healthcare systems, emergency rooms, corrections, and firearms. The strategy will be to impact change at each system level, at the community level, as well as the national level, inspiring and creating change. They see the role as catalysts for implementing change by working with their 73 partner organizations and implementing life-saving work.
Mental health has always been an issue in our country. But, COVID-19 created the opportunity for change by highlighting and exacerbating the problem. There are disparities in how care is delivered and where it is delivered. Depression and anxiety have increased since the pandemic’s beginning and disproportionately impact minority communities. While suicide rates have not increased over the pandemic, at least through 2021, there is concern about mental health data. At the same time, more attention is focused on mental health than at any other time in our history. There is a chance to leverage that into systematic change.
This is a unique time for mental health. During the pandemic, mental health was at the forefront of conversation, both on its own terms and with the link between physical and mental health. The two are intricately linked. The more that can be done to create systems and structures where both needs are met and ultimately cared for, the more lives can be saved. Recent data from the Harris poll, paired with the AFSP, show that 81% of Americans believe it is more critical to make suicide prevention a priority due to the pandemic. In addition, 93% of people surveyed indicated that they believe suicide can be prevented. Additionally, 69% of people indicated barriers to discussing suicide with others, including a lack of comfort and knowledge. That is a critical gap that the AFSP aims to fill with Project 2025.
Project 2025 aims to reduce the annual suicide rate by 20% by the year 2025. The initiative is led by AFSP and supported by the CDC, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and many others. The strategy is to intervene in systems where we lose the most people to suicide. The losses are most significant in these four main settings: healthcare, emergency departments, corrections facilities, and firearms. By focusing on these settings, a large portion of lives can be saved. Together with local chapters, and national and local partners, the AFSP is implementing evidence-based and research-informed programs and initiatives to save lives.
Suicide is a complex public health issue and requires complex solutions. Those solutions require that we address multiple levels in multiple fields. There is a focus on increasing the infrastructure to support those in crisis. AFSP is the most prominent researcher of suicide. There is an AFSP policy team that works in federal, state, and local communities, ensuring proper training for educators, healthcare workers, faith leaders, community leaders, firearm owners, as well as the general public on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide. They also offer support for attempted-suicide survivors and family members of those lost to suicide, with support groups and more.
Health equity guides all of the work that Project 2025 does, from choosing its partners to scaling initiatives. Mental health affects diverse populations, including people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. It also impacts those at the intersection of each of those identities. The current systems were designed in a way that puts these individuals at a disadvantage. But, these systems can be redefined to help those in need. The AFSP’s equitable partnerships are vital leaders and can lead to change in support and give permission to others to step in. Project 2025 focuses on minority communities and tries to elevate the members of those impacted by suicide. We are committed to meeting people where they are and where they need help.
Technology plays several different roles in aiding Project 2025. The pandemic has highlighted the need for telehealth for both physical and mental health. It has increased equitable access to care for those with barriers to accessing care for various reasons. At the same time, there needs to be funding and legislation to be put into play to allow this access to care. There are still areas in our country that may not have the infrastructure to support access, such as phones or the internet. There is a massive gap between people needing help and people getting help. Lack of coverage should not be the reason why someone does not seek support. There needs to be a legal way of supporting these changes, which needs to remain sustainable. In 2017, patients were five times more likely to receive out-of-network care for mental health services than traditional medical health care. Care for mental health needs to be more accessible. As a result, there has been an increase in mortality rate with mental health over a decrease in mortality rate tied to physical health. Data is crucial in helping to fulfill this goal.
While creating beneficial legislature and community programs can help the project, there is another key factor: Employers. Employers can offer training and be on the lookout for those who seem to be struggling with their mental health. They have the chance to make a positive impact. Raising awareness can help employers and employees be on the lookout for those in need. Talk Saves Live is another program employers can use to train their employees.
Many parts of this project will need to work together to accomplish the goal of the AFSP. This is a national, large-scale initiative that can help reach the most people—creating awareness and helping to create a beneficial change. Project 2025 is the voice of that change.
To watch our conversation with Renee Cruz, the Vice President for Project 2025, click here or search "Project 2025" in our video library.