September 9-15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of all deaths in the United States. It’s the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24. Suicide rates are higher among the elderly than in any other age group. It is estimated that approximately 32,000 people die by suicide in the United States every year, or one death by suicide every 15 minutes.
Kansas statistics mirror national numbers. Four hundred and nine (409) Kansans died by suicide in 2010. This is 59 more people than died by suicide in Kansas in 2008. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of all deaths in Kansas. It’s the second leading cause of death, after unintentional injuries, for people ages 15-44.
It is estimated that at least six additional people are intimately affected each time someone dies by suicide, averaging nearly 200,000 bereaved annually. The term “survivor of suicide” is used to describe a person who has lost someone close to them to suicide. The grief that follows the suicide of someone close can be intense, complex and long term. Help is available to survivors of suicide. The American Association of Suicidology offers a variety of resources and programs at www.suicidology.org or 1-202-237-2280.
Mental illness is generally associated with higher rates of suicide. It is estimated that more than 90% of all people who die by suicide have a significant mental illness at the time of their death. These illnesses are often undiagnosed, untreated or both. When both substance abuse and mental disorders are present, the risk for suicide is even greater, particularly for adolescents and young adults.
As members of the community, we need to recognize that suicide is a public health concern. Suicide prevention should be a priority. The place to start is with reducing the stigma associated with receiving treatment for mental health problems, substance abuse disorders or suicidal ideas. Mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders are treatable and suicide is preventable.
If you or someone you care about is at risk of suicide, get help immediately. Contact your school counselor, family physician, clergy or mental health professional. If you have no one you can talk to, contact Pawnee Mental Health Services at 1-785-587-4300 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Pawnee Mental Health Services
2001 Claflin Road
Manhattan, KS 66502