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Suicide Death Rate In Sedgwick County Reaches Record Level In 2017

Sedgwick County AFSP
File photo

A new report says the suicide rates for Sedgwick County and Kansas are consistently higher than the national rate. The Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition presented its annual report to county commissioners Wednesday.

Coalition spokeswoman Nicole Klaus says 96 people in Sedgwick County took their lives last year. That’s the highest suicide rate on record since tracking began in 2001.

"We saw a significant increase this past year in older adult deaths as well as younger adults in the 15- to 24-year-olds," Klaus, a psychologist at KU School of Medicine-Wichita, told commissioners.

The coalition worked with the Regional Forensic Science Center to identify life stressors that may have contributed to a suicide.

"What we found was that in younger individuals, relationship stressors were the most common type of stressor described, and in older individuals, we saw higher rates of physical health problems," she says.

Klaus says 60 percent of the individuals who died of suicide also had a known history of mental illness.

The mission of the Sedgwick County Suicide Prevention Coalition is to promote and implement evidence-based approaches, local research and community change to reduce the impact of suicide with the ultimate goal of zero suicides in Sedgwick County.

The coalition, the Sedgwick County Division of Health and the Regional Forensic Science Center collected data from 2017 for the annual report.

The rate of suicide deaths per 100,000 people in Sedgwick County was 18.9; in Kansas, 17.9; and nationally, 13.4.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S. Its research found suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. In Kansas, the rate went up 45 percent.

Health experts say suicide is preventable. If you or someone you know is struggling, Klaus recommends calling the suicide prevention hotline at (316) 660-7500. It is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

In Sedgwick County, crisis intervention services (emergency mental health) is available at Comcare's Community Crisis Center at 635 N. Main in downtown Wichita.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Upcoming events in Sedgwick County:

  • Sept. 14: Mental Health Summit at the Dole VA Medical Center
  • Sept. 15: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of Darkness Walk

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.