#SuicidePreventionMonth – What You Need to Know

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States (Drapeau & McIntosh, 2015), as well as one of the leading causes of death for college-age students (Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2014).  In a representative year, over 42,000 people die by suicide, which equates to approximately 115 each day.  Not only is this a tragic loss of life, but research indicates that the ripple effect on campuses and communities can be equally devastating.  Consider that for every suicide there are approximately 147 people who are exposed to the death, including 18 who experience a major disruption as a result of the suicide (Drapeau & McIntosh, 2015).   When the impact of each suicide is considered in this way — approximately 750,000 people deeply impacted each year, as well as 6.3 million exposed in a year — it is no wonder why suicide is considered a significant public health problem among campuses and communities across the country.

In spite of the magnitude of this problem, suicide is preventable.  In fact, the state of Ohio recently invested in statewide prevention efforts beginning with House Bill 28, which requires all public institutions of higher education to provide suicide prevention programming on their campuses.  The best suicide prevention practices occur when campuses align strategies to identify at-risk students, increase help-seeking behavior, provide mental health services, promote social connectedness, and develop sound policies related to crisis management and restricting access to lethal means (The Jed Foundation, 2016).  When administrators, staff, faculty, and students possess a shared vision to prevent suicide by promoting mental health and eliminating stigma around help-seeking, the likelihood of preventing suicide increases markedly.

The Ohio State University is one of a select number of campuses nationwide to house a standalone suicide prevention program.  The OSU Suicide Prevention Program was originally founded through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and it is currently funded through a partnership between the College of Education and Human Ecology and the Office of Student Life.  The program works closely with other offices on campus to ensure that the mental health needs of our entire campus community are prioritized.  We have collaborated on initiatives to improve the mental health and well-being of groups with an elevated risk of suicide, including male students, graduate and professional students, international students, and student veterans.

We believe that preventing suicide is a responsibility shared by the entire campus community.  If you are interested in learning more about how to prevent suicide on campus and within our local community, consider attending a REACH training.  REACH is an educational training in which participants learn how to Recognize warning signs, Engage a distressed individual with empathy, Ask directly about suicide, Communicate hope, and Help the individual access mental health resources.  Nearly 10,000 individuals have been trained in REACH.  To sign up, visit reach.osu.edu.

To learn more about what we are doing at OSU, or if you would like to get involved in other ways, please visit our website (suicideprevention.osu.edu) or email us at osusuicideprevention@osu.edu.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@OSUREACH).


 

Matthew Fullen, M.A., M.Div., LPCC is an independently licensed counselor and doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University.  He serves as Program Manager of The Ohio State University Suicide Prevention Program, which is now in its 10th year.  Matthew has presented and published on community suicide prevention efforts for people of various ages.  He can be reached at fullen.33@osu.edu.

The Time to End Gerrymandering is Now

How can something that happens every ten years have more to say about who is in Congress than the voters? And what can we do about it?

Ohio’s congressional district map has been described as resembling a shattered mirror. Oddly-shaped districts stretch in all directions. Traditional geographic boundaries such as counties and cities are routinely carved into numerous districts, splitting communities.

Legislative districts are drawn every ten years. In 2011, congressional districts were drawn to artificially favor the party in power—the Republican Party— utilizing the tactics of “packing” Democratic voters together into a few Democratic leaning districts.  Mapmakers also used “cracking” or breaking up natural political constituencies.  “Cracking” divided Democratic voters and put them in districts with many more Republican voters.

The strategic manipulation of these districts—gerrymandering— led to truly uncompetitive elections. Although the total number of votes cast for each major party is consistently close Gerrymandering v.6 by Michael F. Curtin 12.2015to even in this battleground state, the political party that drew the maps won 75% of the seats (12 of 16) even though they only got roughly 50-60% of the votes.

Ohio’s congressional districts are so “safe” from opposition that the congressional map perfectly predicts which political party will win each district. The party that favors or is more dominant in the congressional districts won 100% of the time in 2012 and 2014, and that trend is expected to continue.

The result of this hyper-partisan mapmaking is that the competitive election—or the real election—occurs during the primary, not the general election. This tends to yield candidates that appeal to partisan extremes rather than the electorate as a whole. And more ideologically extreme representatives lead to difficulty compromising and to partisan gridlock.

Ohio is just one state and partisan gerrymandering happens all over the country. And both political parties do it. Consequently, the least productive Congresses in history have come in the past decade. According to The Pew Research Center the 113th Congress (2013-2014) was almost the least productive Congress in history, second only to the 112th Congress (2011-2012).

In November 2015, voters overwhelmingly passed State Issue 1.  This bipartisan redistricting reform created a fairer and more transparent process for drawing state legislative districts.  But it did not include congressional districts.

Now it’s time to finish the job.  What’s good enough for the Statehouse should be good enough for Congress!  

At this year’s State of the State, Governor John Kasich said that he wanted to see congressional gerrymandering in the “dustbin of history.”

During the lame duck session of 2014, the state legislature passed a resolution that put state legislative redistricting reform (Issue 1) on 2015 ballot.  They could follow suit and put congressional redistricting reform on next year’s ballot.

Unfortunately, congressional redistricting reform faces some obstacles—our legislative leaders.

Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) has described state legislative and congressional redistricting as “apples and oranges.” He has suggested that voters wait until after the 2021 mapmaking before advancing congressional redistricting reform.   Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) described his opposition to congressional reform as opposition to “a divesture of legislative authority.”

So redistricting reform legislation languishes at the Statehouse.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Rep. Michael Curtin (D- Columbus) have introduced a resolution to reform congressional redistricting reform in the Ohio House of Representatives. Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) have introduced a resolution in the Ohio Senate.  Both of these resolutions are similar to Issue 1 of 2015, but neither of these resolutions have received a single hearing.

Gerrymandering Explained

​At a forum in Cleveland last month, Senator LaRose recommended that voters “evangelize” about the need for congressional redistricting reform and said, “We have to start with why it matters.  Your neighbor or John Q. Public, the person you see at work or wherever else— they may not know why it matters…. The way that the districts are drawn causes polarization and dysfunction… all kinds of problems in state and federal legislative bodies.”

Learn more about congressional redistricting by watching this video.  Find out how you can make a difference by visiting fairdistrictsohio.org.  If you have any questions, please call Common Cause Ohio at 614-441-9145.

Catherine Turcer is Policy Analyst for Common Cause Ohio and is an expert on redistricting reform and state level campaign finance.

Let’s Get Moving on Transit in Ohio

Hundreds of thousands of people who trekked to downtown Cleveland for the spirited Cavaliers NBA Championship celebration were encouraged to use public transit (RTA).  Many did, and the system was quickly overwhelmed.  When the celebration ended, RTA users struggled to get home—lines stretched the length of eight football fields.  Frustrated riders waited hours.

While Cleveland’s RTA is not designed to handle 1.3 million people at once, this problem highlights shortcomings of Ohio’s grossly underfunded public transit systems.  If Cleveland had a fully funded public transportation system, the Cavs victory celebration would have still been a lot to handle.  But, as the RTA Tweeted (@GCRTA) to an upset traveler: “We apologize for your delay.  We know u are upset with us.  We are over capacity & underfunded. We are working with what we have.”  If only it had more to work with.

Ohio is the seventh most populous state with the 14th highest public transit ridership rates, yet we rank 47th in our state’s commitment towards funding public transit.  Public transit represents less than 1 percent of Ohio’s entire transportation budget.  We can and should do much better.

The most recent transit study conducted by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) concluded that Cleveland needs to enhance its public transit system to the same level as Portland, Oregon.  The rest of Ohio’s mid-sized cities (Columbus included) must expand to be equivalent in size to Cleveland’s current system.  With Ohio choosing to spend only 63 cents per person on public transit per year while neighboring states spend an average of $25 (Michigan) to $97 (Pennsylvania), the necessary public transit expansion is impossible without major increases to the meager resources Ohio currently allocates towards transit from its nearly $6 billion transportation budget.

Although Cleveland’s public transportation system is limited, it is by far Ohio’s largest, responsible for providing roughly half of all transit rides in the state.  Our public transit systems in other Ohio cities, like Columbus, are even more woefully inadequate.  Local officials blamed the lack of transportation options for Columbus’ failure to win the right to host the Republican National Convention  and the Democratic National Convention which went, instead, to Cleveland and Philadelphia, respectively.  Places like the City of Warren in the Mahoning Valley or communities in Lorain County have transit systems that are barely operating on a shoestring budget.  Beavercreek, a city outside of Dayton, actively tried to keep transit riders out of their community altogether.

There is already a $555.3 million gap between the current public transportation budget and what is needed, according to ODOT’s own Transit Needs Study—this gap will grow to $904 million by 2025.  Right now, a third of Ohio’s buses need to be replaced or they will start costing more to maintain.

Why don’t state leaders act on this knowledge?  I don’t know.  But if history tells us anything, they won’t unless we demand it.


 

Editor’s Note:  Ohio is home to several organizations that advocate for public and alternative transportation who have information readily available for those who are interested.  Such organizations include Transit Columbus, All Aboard Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio, and the Ohio Public Transit Association


 

Grace Billiter, Intern, Policy Matters Ohio 

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Photo from https://greenlakebluecity.com/tag/cleveland-rta/