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This series by Eric Litwiller of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas looks at mental health in the Wichita area. It is in conjunction with the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.

Commentary: We all need to support the Zero Suicide Initiative

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In 2021, Sedgwick County had a record-high number of suicides, with both the largest and fastest-growing groups of those occurring in Kansans under the age of 18. These are our children and grandchildren, each of whom possessed a unique set of gifts and talents that will now never be realized. In response, a select group of mental health providers right here in Wichita have joined the Zero Suicide Initiative with the ambitious goal of eliminating death by suicide throughout south central Kansas.

The Zero Suicide model was founded with the belief that suicide deaths for those receiving mental health care are preventable. The vast majority of those who take their own lives see a health care provider within one year prior to their death. Yet those living with the mental illnesses that ultimately cost them their lives fell through the cracks in an imperfect health care system, with disastrous results.

As a signatory to this initiative, local mental health organizations are committing to a new way of providing care, but this also requires the support of local businesses, households, and individuals, as well as a commitment from those same groups to be aware of the resources available locally, and to actively push their friends, families, and co-workers to receive the care they need. It is only with the complete support and investment from our local stakeholders that we can achieve the goal of zero suicides sought by this initiative.

If you want to help, please call your local mental healthcare providers and ask if they have committed to the Zero Suicide Initiative, and support those who have. After all, even one suicide is one too many.