According to Gov. Doug Ducey, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in the state of Arizona. And he’s ready to do something about it.

In the governor’s State of the State speech Monday, he pushed for better access to mental health care, a need that impacts people of all ages, from children to veterans.

Regarding veterans, Ducey highlighted the work of Col. Wanda Wright and the Department of Veterans Services and its BeConnected program, under which “veterans are connecting with one another for support and behavioral health services,” Ducey said, noting that more needs to be done for all Arizonans.

He referenced the challenges children face in today’s world, noting, “We need solutions that focus on the whole child, promoting personal resilience, leveraging our community and a supportive environment.”

“Let’s start by increasing access to mental health care. We’re working with Senator Kate Brophy McGee and Representative Jeff Weninger on a long overdue reform. Insurance companies should be covering mental health, just like they cover an annual physical. And we’re going to make sure they do,” Ducey said.

It’s a great first step, and one that is needed. If one’s insurance doesn’t cover mental health care, and one cannot cover the expense, it’s something that one might forgo. Yet mental health services are just as important as caring for any other part of an individual.

Ducey also noted that he plans to boost funding for K-12 schools, specifically citing funding for school counselors and campus police officers, which is also needed. Campus officers and school counselors are often front-line resources to identifying issues and concerns, which in turn can lead to earlier assistance for students, such as mental health care, making this a win for Arizona students.

The final issue, however, is one outside of the governor’s control – removing the stigma from mental health care. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) noted in 2017 that about 40 percent of the 60 million patients suffering from mental illness go without treatment, and perceived stigma is a significant barrier – especially for veterans, NAMI reports.

If you know someone who is struggling, be supportive. Give them encouragement to seek help, and assist them in overcoming that stigma.

Overall, Ducey’s ideas are positive moves in the right direction to help. Improving access to care and adding school counselors, and continuing work with the Department of Veterans Services are all necessary steps.

And, anyone facing a personal crisis, or who is considering killing or harming themselves, can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or the Southern Arizona Crisis Line at (866) 495-6735 for help.

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