Preventing suicide is everybody's business

National Suicide Prevention Week is here, running from Sept. 5 through Sept. 11 this year.

The week was designated to inform and engage health professionals and the public about the warning signs of suicide and to provide preventative measures to help someone in distress.

New Mexico has continuously grappled with some of the high suicide related deaths since 2008. According to a Dec. 2020 report from the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC), from 2014 to 2018, New Mexico's suicide rate increased by 19 percent, more than double the national increase during the same period.

In 2018, according to that LFC report, the most recent year for which national data is available, New Mexico had the highest suicide rate in the United States, at 25.6 per 100 thousand people. According to New Mexico's Indicator Based Information System, Taos County has 36 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.

The LFC report also anticipated a 20 percent increase in suicide deaths due to mental health concerns surrounding COVID. Although it is difficult to draw a direct correlation, many mental health professionals have expressed concern over the link between the pandemic and suicidal behavior. Young people, in particular, are believed to now be at a higher risk of suicide as a result of the pandemic.

According to the CDC, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents aged 12-17 years in May 2020, especially among young girls. The CDC also said that among boys ages 12-17 years, emergency visits for suspected suicide attempts increased nearly four percent.

Taos Behavioral Health is trained in suicide prevention efforts for Taos High School students. Another local resource, Help Outreach Taos (HOT), is a collaboration of dedicated agencies, professionals, health care providers and individuals who are committed to preventing suicides and providing supports for those in need.

There are also several resources and lifelines from organizations like the New Mexico Department of Health, the Sky Center Suicide Intervention Project, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This includes the LFC that September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month.

World Suicide Prevention day is on Sept. 10.

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