LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – One person dies by suicide every 11 minutes in the U.S., according to the CDC. Many of those are people in the criminal justice system.
A woman from Lansing is working on the front lines advocating for more mental health resources. It’s personal for her. Her son tried to commit suicide several times while behind bars.
She’s just one of many hoping to fix what they call a systemic issue.
Lois Pullano says her son tried to commit suicide after going to an adult prison at the age of 15.
“Particularly when they have a known mental illness. And it’s not being treated. So they end up then being placed in segregation or solitary confinement where often they are spending 22 plus hours a day alone,” Pullano said.
Pullano is the executive director for “Citizens for Prison Reform.” She is trying to spread awareness about the mental challenges people face behind bars and what moms like herself have gone through.
“This mother was so anxious that she herself took her own life. I know that anxiety, and I know that pain, and that anguish that you feel when you know your loved one is sitting in a segregation cell,” said Pullano.
Also helping the effort: new funding aimed at studying the problem.
A $15 million grant was given to a group called “The National Center for Health and Justice Integration for Suicide Prevention.” A professor at Michigan State is a part of the group.
“Booking and release data are public data. And we have partnerships with health systems to crosswalk their patient lists against jail bookings and release data until they see one of their patients coming across these rosters to reach out and see if they are okay and see what they need.” Jennifer Johnson, professor of Public Health at MSU Flint.
Though Johnson may not have a personal experience like Pullano, both agree that change needs to happen soon.
“You can recover from anything if you keep living,” said Johnson.
“With resources, with tools, and I think it’s possible,” said Pullano.
More information on Pullano’s organization can be found here.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the suicide hotline at 988.