To raise awareness and educate Kansans on suicide prevention, Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation designating September as Suicide Prevention Month in the State of Kansas.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for Kansans of all ages to have access to comprehensive mental health resources across our state,” Governor Kelly said. “This month and every month, we must focus on ways to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, and make sure people of all ages know that help is always available if they need it.”
Suicide Prevention Month is observed in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and National Suicide Prevention Week September 5-11.
The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) has partnered with the Kansas Prevention Collaborative (KPC), the Kansas Suicide Prevention HQ (KSPHQ) and Prevention Initiatives at Wichita State University’s Community Engagement Institute to develop this year’s statewide 2021 Kansas Suicide Prevention Awareness Campaign, “Check In.” The campaign is designed to:
- Promote making connections that will create the social support needed to help reduce the risk of suicidal behavior
- Help dismantle the stigma surrounding youth and adults who seek mental health services
- Relieve the feelings of shame, guilt and isolation for those dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide by normalizing the conversation
“Raising awareness in its simplest form can start by not being afraid to ask, or “check in” when we are worried about someone or asking for help if we need it ourselves,” KDADS Secretary Laura Howard said. “Individually and together with the team of local coalitions we’ve built, we can have a positive impact on the reduction of deaths by suicide, and effectively address behavioral health prevention in our communities around the state.”
In Kansas, suicide has consistently been in the top 10 leading causes of death among all ages. The 2019 Kansas Summary of Vital Statistics reported 521 deaths by suicide in the state, the highest it’s been in the last 20 years and higher than the national rate. Kansas data also shows suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 15-34 years. According to data from Kansas Communities that Care, in 2019:
- 40 percent of reporting youth self-disclosed they felt sad or hopeless every day for at least two weeks sometime in the last 12 months
- The first two sources from whom a youth with mental health concerns would seek help are a partner/significant other or a friend
Service Members, Veterans and their Families (SMVF) in Kansas who have faithfully and honorably served our state and nation have seen a suicide rate 3.4 times the rate of non-veterans and significantly higher than the national rate. From 2015 to 2017, 67 per 100,000 veterans died by suicide.
Governor Kelly’s proclamation highlights the many ways Kansas is dedicated to eliminating suicide and raising awareness. It recognizes suicide as a “significant public health problem” and declares prevention a “statewide priority.”
Monica Kurz, KSPHQ Vice President of External Programing, said, “What we know is that the greatest protection that people have from acting on thoughts of suicide is strong connections with other people, and having compassionate, caring and respectful contact with people helps to build those connections.”
For free, confidential support or prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones 24/7, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or text 741741.
About the Kansas Prevention Collaborative: The Kansas Prevention Collaborative was organized by KDADS in 2015 to integrate and innovate behavioral health prevention efforts. A partnership of several different state, educational, and provider agencies, the KPC’s goal is to expand prevention efforts to be more inclusive of mental health promotion, suicide prevention, and problem gambling education and awareness, as well as to increase the availability of resources to adequately fund local-level prevention and promotion strategic plans. For interviews, media inquiries or more information, please contact the Kansas Prevention Collaborative at KPCTeam@wichita.edu.