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Everyone can help
Preventing suicides takes compassion and community
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 Governor Sam Brownback signed a proclamation Thursday designating Sept. 5-11 as Suicide Prevention Week in the State of Kansas. Suicide Prevention Week is recognized nationally as a time to raise awareness and educate people concerning suicide prevention. It is observed in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10. 

This is a worthy observation, said Janel Rose of the Barton County Health Department. She is a part of the Central Kansas Partnership’s Suicide Prevention Task Force.

There were 477 death by suicides in Kansas in 2015, and 5 of those were in Barton County, she said. “The task force is working hard to raise awareness about preventing suicides and educating the community about where to turn for help.”    

In Kansas, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall and the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 years. Annually, more than three times as many people die by suicide in Kansas than by homicide.

The governor’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.” 

The task force is one of a number of Kansas coalitions and organizations dedicated to suicide prevention and awareness. In signing this proclamation, Brownback is carrying on the practice of making suicide prevention a top priority in Kansas every year. As Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Acting Secretary Tim Keck puts it, “All of us can prevent suicide. It takes no special training, only a kind heart. When we listen, when we lend a hand, when we encourage, we can all make a difference in the life of someone who is in despair.” 

Andy Brown, executive director of Headquarters Inc., believes that the solution to suicide prevention lies with individuals and communities. “In order to have a positive impact on the reduction of deaths by suicide, Kansans have to work together. The Kansas Prevention Collaborative, under KDADS, relies on the efforts of local coalitions to address behavioral health prevention in their communities around the state. We’re here to help with trainings and technical assistance, and to answer the calls of thousands of Kansans in their time of crisis, but it takes local volunteers and organizations stepping up and taking action to prevent suicide and truly make our communities safer and healthier.”

Rose agrees.

To this end, the local task force will hold its annual Golden Belt Glow walk and run to help raise awareness and funds to sponsor educational efforts on Sept. 10. It will also bring in Luke Maxwell, who survived a suicide attempt, to speak at Great Bend High School Sept. 13.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  is 800-273-8255.

Dale Hogg