U.S. Rep. Ron Barber has acted to spur research into preventing suicides – an especially troubling problem in Arizona which has a suicide rate almost 30 percent above the national average with one person dying by suicide every eight hours.

“I am determined to lead the way in conducting research into suicide so we can save the lives of Arizonans and all Americans who feel they have no other alternative,” Barber said today.”More than 38,000 Americans take their own lives each year – a terrible loss that we must find ways to prevent.” 

This week Barber introduced HR 4075 – the Suicide Prevention Research INnovaTion Act or the “SPRINT Act.” Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska.


In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 38,364 Americans committed suicide – about one person every 13 minutes – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That makes it the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Another 1.1 million more Americans tried to take their own lives.

But in Arizona, the suicide rate is far higher. Only 10 other states have a higher rate, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a strong supporter of Barber’s legislation. Suicide is the sixth-leading cause of death in the state.

Barber noted that 9 out of 10 people who died by suicide had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.

“I also am deeply concerned that veterans account for 20 percent of all suicides,” Barber said today. Barber represents 85,000 Southern Arizona veterans. “We must give veterans the health care – including mental health care – that we promised them when they stepped forward to serve our nation.”


Barber’s legislation would provide $40 million annually for five years to the National Institute of Mental Health to be used for:

  • Research into the determinants of self-directed and other violence in mental illness, including studies designed to reduce the risk of self-harm, suicide and interpersonal violence, especially in rural communities with a shortage of mental health services; and
  • Brain research through the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies or BRAIN Initiative.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it hopes the research will be as effective as that conducted into other major public health concerns including HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and heart disease. Research into those health issues have led to corresponding reductions in deaths.

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