Increase in Sedgwick County suicides has some speaking out for change

Better Health & Wellness

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Community leaders and volunteers are taking another step toward preventing suicide. They are trying to raise awareness about warning signs and prevention.

One of the first steps was to have Sedgwick County Commissioners proclaim this week, Sept. 5-11, as National Suicide Prevention Week.

Stop Suicide ICT, a Wichita nonprofit, is fighting to stop the yearly increase in suicides. In the last 15 years, suicides in Sedgwick County have increased over 50%, and the numbers continue to rise.

The University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita has been collecting Sedgwick County suicide data for 20 years.

Dr. Nicole Klaus, an associate professor at the school, says someone dies by suicide every 3.4 days in Sedgwick County.

After a slight dip in suicides in 2019, Klaus says 105 residents died by suicide in 2020, making it the worst year since the school began collecting data. Of the 2020 suicide deaths, 90% were men.

Klaus hopes 2021 will have lower suicide numbers. There were 37 suicides in the first half of 2021, compared to 49 in the first half of 2020. That is 12 fewer year-to-date.

While a change in the numbers shows promise, Stop Suicide ICT president Nicole Fenoglio said it’s more important than ever to keep the conversation going. 

“The more people in our community that kind of know what to do or recognize the warning signs and know where to take someone for help, the better,” she said.

These numbers are why the local non-profit is bringing the community together for an event Thursday evening.

It’s called the Party for Prevention. People will hear from survivors and families who have lost someone to suicide. The goal is to help the community understand the signs of suicide and learn how to step up before it’s too late.

Fenoglio says the pandemic is changing the look of mental health. 

“COVID-19 has brought something that’s more difficult for a lot of people, but I will say that one blessing I think that has come from the pandemic is that, because it’s affected so many people, people are talking about it now, and it’s lowering the stigma,” she said.

All of the money raised at the Party for Prevention will go toward Stop Suicide ICT in hopes of providing more services to prevent suicide. The event is at Olive Tree from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9. It’s located at 2949 N. Rock Rd. For more information, click here.

Another fundraiser is the Suspenders4Hope Run/Walk Saturday, Sept. 11.

You can also get involved by taking the Mental Health First Aid virtual classes on Sept. 17, Oct. 15, and Nov. 5. Call 316-660-7706 to learn more.

If you need help:

Several hotlines and even local virtual support groups are available if you or someone you know needs help.

  • COMCARE Hotline – 316-660-7500
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 800-273-8255
  • Both hotlines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Find more local resources or support groups here.

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