Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation designating September as Suicide Prevention Month in Kansas, and we are reminded that prevention and crisis resources are available.
There are groups that face specific mental health challenges but this is a serious public health issue that cuts across demographics.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) releases data and resources to support local communities and organizations. Comprehensive data and supporting resources are critical to understanding the issue.
KDHE collects information on suicide deaths, suicidal thoughts and attempts. In 2015, KDHE began the Kansas Violent Death Reporting System, allowing groups to learn about those at greatest risk, emerging trends, settings and circumstances surrounding suicides. Additionally, KDHE reviews and uses data from other sources to ensure a complete picture.
Among the findings:
• About 3 in 4 (74%) of the total 2,055 violent deaths in Kansas from 2015-2017 were suicides.
• More than half (54%) of those who died by suicide had a high school education or less.
• In 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people ages 15-34 in Kansas.
• About 78% of suicide deaths were among males, who had 3.6 times the suicide rate of females.
• Most suicides (84%) were among non-Hispanic Whites.
• Male workers in the Farm/Forestry/Fishing group had the highest suicide rate (158.4 per 100,000). Female workers in Health-care Support had 2 times the suicide rate of the average among females.
• About 1 in 10 had recent criminal legal, financial or job problems. About 3 in 10 had intimate partner problems.
• About 1 in 4 told someone their thoughts and/or plans to die by suicide within the last month.
“Experts have speculated the mental, economic, behavioral and psychosocial problems linked to the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a rise in suicide behavior,” said Leslie Hale, program manager for Kansas Zero Suicide. “KDHE is working to compare pre-pandemic, pandemic and eventually post-pandemic data to understand the impact. We are actively supporting and collaborating with partners on suicide prevention.”
Locally, recent community efforts to raise awareness included the new Riding in Remembrance - Pedals for Prevention on Sept. 17 and the 9th Annual Golden Belt Glow for Life 5K/1 Mile Run on Sept. 18.
A former law enforcement officer here used to say, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” More recently, we saw a post on Facebook that asked viewers to send a three-word message to their younger selves. One suggestion was: “It gets better.” We might add, “You’re not alone.” And we’re reminded that there are Zero Reasons Why suicide is ever an option.
Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org) telephone number is 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). Locally, The Center for Counseling and Consultation provides professional, licensed mental health services. The Center’s telephone number 800-875-2544 is answered 24/7. The Central Kansas Partnership (ckpartnership.org) has a Suicide Prevention Task Force for anyone who wants to get involved.