Suicide deaths increase in Sedgwick County


SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s National Suicide Prevention Week in Sedgwick County, a week dedicated to raising awareness about suicide.

Last year, the county saw its highest suicide rates on record since it began tracking suicides. In 2016, there were 91 suicide deaths — that’s almost 18 deaths per 100,000 residents.

“It is alarming especially when there are more efforts in the community to reduce suicide,” said Tisha Darland, the director of Crisis and Outpatient Services at COMCARE. “The fact that it’s increasing instead of decreasing is definitely a concern.”

According to Darland, the county doesn’t have specific data that shows why the number is rising. However, there is situational data that shows many people face stress — whether that’s financial stress or college stress.

Just last year, Sedgwick County suicide prevention hotline operators answered 70,000 calls.

The county’s hotline is seeing more calls from college kids, as well as professionals in the workforce that say ‘I am just really struggling with the competition, with my family pushing me to succeed and all the responsibilities.’

Data shows that Sedgwick County saw its highest suicide rate in people 35-54 years old.

Darland said any suicide is one too many.

At the COMCARE Community Crisis Center, staff is dedicated to reducing suicides.

The center is open 24/7, seven days a week. It’s a place where people can come in to find help. Even if someone isn’t having suicidal thoughts, but know someone who is, they can find help at the crisis center. People can also stay at the center for a few days, and there’s also a sobering a detox unit.

Darland said, since January, 5,000 people have come in to use the center’s resources.

She added that the public can also do their part in reducing suicide rates.

“Unfortunately too many people feel like if they haven’t been touched by suicide or if they don’t know anyone that’s considered suicide or completed suicide, that it doesn’t apply to them,” said Darland.

She recommended everyone know what resources are available in the community for those that may need help. Darland also encouraged people to take the Mental Health First Aid training course at the crisis center, which focuses on how to have those tough conversations about suicide with someone.

“We don’t think anything about sitting down and having a conversation with somebody over coffee about our sister’s cancer diagnosis,” said Darland. “People don’t sit down and comfortably talk about their sister’s depression diagnosis or recent suicide attempt, and we have to have those conversations for it to go away.”

Another way to help reduce suicides is by getting involved. There are a few events in Sedgwick County over the next few months aimed at suicide awareness.

  • Saturday, Sept. 16: AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk at Wichita WaterWalk, 10 a.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 1: National Alliance on Mental Illness Candlelight Vigil at Newman University
  • Thursday, Nov. 2: Party for Prevention at Abode, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 18: Survivors of Suicide Day at Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph

If you feel you are in a mental crisis, or know someone who is, call (316) 660-7500.

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