A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Officials drawing attention to magnitude of state’s suicide problem during Suicide Prevention Week

By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service

The data on suicide in Kentucky is staggering, with one person taking his or her own life every 11 hours. And state health officials are among those elevating the magnitude of the problem during Suicide Prevention Week, September 9-15.

State Suicide Prevention Coordinator Tammy Barrett said all Kentuckians should understand that suicide is preventable, and people at risk can be helped with the proper awareness, education and tools. While hundreds die by suicide in Kentucky every year, suicide rates are improving.

People in distress can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK 24/7 for confidential assistance. (Photo from Pixabay, via PNS)

“In 2016, Kentucky ranked 16th. And in the preliminary data for 2017, it appears that Kentucky has now dropped to 20th,” Barrett said. “So we’ve seen about a 5 percent decrease in the state of Kentucky. That’s wonderful. We’ll take that, because one life saved makes all the difference.”

In Kentucky, 14 Regional Prevention Centers provide prevention training and resources, and the state offers technical assistance to schools with counselor training and student programs that promote resiliency and decrease risky behaviors.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides assistance 24/7. The number is 800-273-TALK.

Throughout Kentucky this week, Barrett said free trainings are available on “QPR.” She said like CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver, it can be a crucial life-saving tool.

“QPR stands for ‘Question, Persuade and Refer.’ And this does not license you as a professional, this is just a training that teaches you those tools to talk to someone that may be having suicide ideations,” she explained. “It’s also a good tool if you are feeling these things.”

A person at risk for suicide might threaten self-harm, unusually talk or write about death and suicide, or seek the means to take his or her own life, such as a firearm. Other warning signs include anxiety, sleep disturbances, hopelessness, mood swings, withdrawal from loved ones, and reckless behavior.

More information is available at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services website.

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