Suicide rate, deaths decline in Sedgwick County

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Sixty-eight Sedgwick County residents committed suicide in 2015, down from from 82 in 2014.

The suicide rate last year was 13.3 per 100,000 county residents, according to a report by the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition. The rate in 2014 was 16.4 per 100,000 residents.

Seventy people committed suicide in 2013 for a rate of 14.1 per 100,000 residents.

“There were some declines in 2015, which is great news,” said Nicole Klaus, a psychologist at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita. “(But) any suicide is too many. So our ultimate goal is to reach zero suicides.”

“The community can help us reach this goal by recognizing the warning signs and knowing resources that are available in the community,” Klaus said.

Fifty-four percent of the suicide cases in the county in 2015 had a history of mental illness, according to the report. A majority of those people had a history of depression or anxiety.

“This is the ending to a mental health problem, not the beginning of it,” Commissioner Tim Norton said.

Commissioner Dave Unruh called suicide a “tragedy that affects our community.” He said people need to know how to respond when they see suicidal tendencies in someone.

This is not just an opportunity for statistical analysis. … You don’t have to be a psychologist to know when someone is talking in a way that is not helpful.

Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh

“This is not just an opportunity for statistical analysis,” Unruh said. “You don’t have to be a psychologist to know when someone is talking in a way that is not helpful.”

Jason Scheck, outpatient services director for Comcare, said the county agency has seen increased demand for crisis services since it opened its community crisis center on Main Street last year.

“We’ve seen an increase in willingness to accept treatment and not wait for things to get to the point where it requires involuntary commitment through the courts or law enforcement intervention,” Scheck said.

The 24-hour suicide and crisis hotline in Sedgwick County is 316-660-7500. Comcare also offers walk-in services 24 hours a day at the crisis center at 635 N. Main.

316-660-7500 Sedgwick County Suicide and Crisis Hotline

“Many times, suicidal crises are time-limited,” Scheck said. “Support and help during those times of crises really can make a difference.”

Chairman Jim Howell said people may not call a suicide hotline for fear of what will happen if they identify themselves.

Scheck said that although services can be coordinated more effectively with a name, people can call the hotline anonymously. Emergency responders become involved only as a last resort, if someone’s life is in immediate jeopardy, he said.

“What we do is listen, try to understand the problem and help folks identify pathways forward in their life,” Scheck said.

“We always encourage that person to seek their own help to be in control as much as possible or to have other people around them help them through that situation.”

The greatest number of suicides occurred in residents between ages 25 and 54.

Although the suicide rate dropped for males in 2015, suicide deaths remain much more common in men than women.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar