September National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Part 1

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

When I went to a recent County Commissioners weekly meeting, I heard a report that got my attention. I am quoting a report from KMUW, a local public radio station that reflected on the increase of suicide rates for Kansas in particular and Sedgwick County in particular. Butler County statistics are not named in this report specifically. 

A new report says the suicide rates for Sedgwick County and Kansas are consistently higher than the national rate. The Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition presented its annual report to county commissioners Wednesday.

Coalition spokeswoman Nicole Klaus says 96 people in Sedgwick County took their lives last year. That’s the highest suicide rate on record since tracking began in 2001.

“We saw a significant increase this past year in older adult deaths as well as younger adults in the 15- to 24-year-olds,” Klaus, a psychologist at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, told commissioners.

The coalition worked with the Regional Forensic Science Center to identify life stressors that may have contributed to a suicide.

“What we found was that in younger individuals, relationship stressors were the most common type of stressor described, and in older individuals, we saw higher rates of physical health problems,” she says.

Klaus says 60 percent of the individuals who died of suicide also had a known history of mental illness.

The mission of the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition is to promote and implement evidence-based approaches, local research and community change to reduce the impact of suicide with the ultimate goal of zero suicides in Sedgwick County.

The coalition, the Sedgwick County Division of Health and the Regional Forensic Science Center collected data from 2017 for the annual report.

The rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 people in Sedgwick County was 18.9; in Kansas, 17.9; and nationally, 13.4. Every 12 minutes, someone dies from suicide in the USA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Its research found suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. In Kansas, the rate went up 45 percent. After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death.

Health experts say suicide is preventable. If you or someone you know is struggling, Klaus recommends calling the suicide prevention hotline at (316) 660-7500. It is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

In Sedgwick County, crisis intervention services (emergency mental health) is available at Comcare’s Community Crisis Center at 635 N. Main in downtown Wichita.

Upcoming events in Sedgwick County:

  • Sept. 14: Mental Health Summit at the Dole VA Medical Center
  • Sept. 15: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of Darkness Walk

Suicide prevention – know the signs:

  • Talk – no reason to live. Feeling trapped. Being a burden to others. Unbearable pain. Talk of killing themselves.
  • Behavior – Increased alcohol/drug use. Isolation from family and friends. Sleep too much/too little. Withdrawing from activities. Seeking access to pills/weapons or other means.
  • Mood – depression. Loss of interest. Rage. Irritability. Humiliation. Anxiety.

What should you do if you see the warning signs?

  • Take it seriously, if someone mentions suicide.
  • Talk openly and matter of factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow feelings to be expressed.
  • Offer hope that help is available
  • Do not leave him or her alone
  • Get help immediately. Dial 911.

Next week, I will blog about the theological aspects of suicide.

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