Suicide rates on rise; health care providers urge people to talk about mental health

The suicide rate in the U.S. went up by 33% between 1999 and 2017, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate is the highest it’s been since 1942.

The number of suicides has fluctuated over the years in La Crosse County. In recent years, suicides peaked in 2014 with 26 deaths, according to the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative.

“Which is very concerning, and the numbers are still high. We want to do everything we can to bring those numbers down,” said Tim Blumentritt, a member of the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative. The group is comprised of health care professionals, community members and other stakeholders working to prevent suicides.

The data from the county’s coroner also show that more men than women completed suicide over the last 10 years.

“Traditionally, men are at much greater risk for completing suicide, whereas women are more likely to attempt,” Blumentritt said.

So how do you know if a loved one is considering suicide? Health experts say there are a number of possible signs.

Someone might be talking about killing themselves or ways people die by suicide, withdrawing from others or saying they’re worthless, hopeless or a burden.

There are also a lot of misconceptions about suicide.

“If someone talks about it, they’re not really going to do it. And that really isn’t the case,” said Theresa Helgeson, a clinical therapist with Mayo Clinic Health System.

She suggests people encourage a loved one to talk further about how they’re feeling or ask them some questions.

“‘Are you feeling down? Is there anything you want to talk about?’ Or, say the word, ‘Are you feeling suicidal?'” Helgeson said.

These mental health care professional say the most important thing is to get people the help they need when they need it the most.

“If we can intervene when that crisis is at its highest and help people get through that short-term crisis, that can make all the difference in the world,” Blumentritt said.

Blumentritt also serves as the director of the CARE Center, a mental health crisis and detox facility in La Crosse. This is one of the many services available to people in the area seeking services. For more information on the resources available to people in crisis, dial 211 to be connected.

If you feel like someone is in need of urgent help — maybe they’re threatening to hurt or kill themselves– call 911.

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