Jonathan Canaday – Southwest Arkansas Radio
Suicide rates are climbing, with the highest numbers reported in rural counties across the United States. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, the number of suicide deaths had increased in Arkansas, however declined last year due to awareness efforts and a new prevention lifeline.
The month of September is Suicide Prevention Month and ADH Injury and Violence Prevention Section Chief Mandy Thomas says Arkansas is one of few states to have a call center funded and operated by a state government agency. Anyone in crisis or that needs to talk to someone is welcome to call the 24 hour phone number at 1-800-273-TALK.
Thomas says they are working to provide resources that can continue to assist in reducing suicide deaths.
“Suicide is a crisis for our state. In 2016, we had 546 deaths due to suicide. In 2017, we jumped up to 621 deaths…we just recently received 2018 data and that put us back down to 547. So we did see a decrease from 2017 to 2018, we are very proud of that and want to keep that momentum going so that it will continue to reduce.”
The Arkansas Department of Health Suicide Prevention Program is working to provide educational programs that encourage people from all walks of life to become knowledgeable about suicide prevention. Thomas says the education is provided free of charge to schools or other groups/organizations.
“We work very closely with the Arkansas chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Our ADH office also provides basic suicide prevention 101 and classes geared to youth in grades 7-12.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, one person dies by suicide in Arkansas every 16 hours.
Thomas says warning signs of suicide include depression, withdrawing from family, and giving away prized possessions. While teenagers are more frequently at risk of suicide, the highest numbers include middle aged men.
“In our state, the highest population for suicides are white males aged 25 to 44. Our youth population increased from 2017 to 2018, so the more education we can give to schools will give them more resources to make sure the child is taken care of.”
If you know of someone going through a crisis, Arkansas Department of Health officials encourage people to open a dialogue with that individual and help them seek assistance.
For more information, visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.