Suicide is a bigger killer than opioid overdoses and car crashes, but as an epidemic it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention as those other two.
Fortunately, that could be changing. How? People are finally willing to talk about it, and talking about it can make a world of difference.
Last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey hosted a media conference call to discuss the state’s suicide prevention efforts. It’s a statewide problem to be sure, but it’s heartening that Ducey was putting the bulk of his attention on rural communities.
Suicide rates are increasing in rural America, and cities and towns within Graham and Greenlee counties are no exception. The rural West has a high number of deaths by suicide, attributable to factors such as high substance abuse rates and economic pressures.
It’s a multifaceted problem, with no quick fixes, but it seems fairly obvious that Arizona and the nation need to put the focus on improving access to mental health care and erasing the stigma that’s attached to admitting mental health problems.
To that end, Arizona’s budget provides $20 million to hire more school counselors and police officers on school campuses.
And earlier this year, the governor signed a bill that expands suicide awareness and prevention training in public schools. The law requires all school employees who work with students in grades six through 12 to receive training on suicide prevention and how to identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior in adolescents and teens.
It’s a good start. This is one problem that could use some more money thrown at it. The funding will allow school districts such as those in the Gila Valley to provide additional counseling services to students who need it. We hope our area gets its share when the time comes and those funds are put to good use.
But it’s not just our schools that need the help. Adults — particularly middle-aged adults and veterans — need better access to mental health. And the state can play a big role in funding it.
Until that happens, it’s important that all of us recognize the signs when someone is vulnerable to life’s pressures. Consider attending a mental health first aid training seminar. And for that matter, keep the national suicide hotline handy — the number is 1-800-273-TALK. You never know when you might need it.
Reprinted from Lake Havasu City Today’s News-Herald