It’s Times to Discuss Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Out Loud

With the suicide death of the 11 year student of Mountain View Elementary School this week it reminds us of the importance for the community to have dialog and create a community wide response. Collaboration between business, government, educational institutions and health care and nonprofit institutions is a must to achieve a goal of reducing this societal plague.

New Mexico is ranked 4th in the nation for its high suicide rate. It's not a pleasant subject to discuss. It's a topic that may not make sense to many. For deaths by suicide to be prevented, people need to have conversations about it, alerting people to what it is, telling people how to talk about it, how to recognize signs of distress and how to approach people having distress can help.

But it's important to be aware of how much suicide has been and is part of life in New Mexico.

Throughout the state of New Mexico, suicide is the:

  • 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-24
  • 2nd leading cause of death for ages 25-34
  • 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-44
  • 6th leading cause of death for ages 45-54
  • 9th leading cause of death for ages 55-64
  • 16th leading cause of death for ages 65.

Overall, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in New Mexico.

More than 4 times as many people died by suicide in 2019 than in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.

83.36% of communities did not have enough mental health providers to serve residents in 2021, according to federal guidelines.

According to the CDC, there were 516 deaths caused by suicide in the State in 2020. These statistics for suicide in New Mexico rank the state as the jurisdiction with the fourth highest level of deaths from suicide. That level, the CDC stated, is 24.2 cases of death by suicide for every 100,000 people in 2020.

Only Wyoming, Alaska, and Montana had statistically higher levels of suicide, according to the CDC, in 2020. Statistical levels in those states were, respectively, 30.5, 27.5, and 26.1 deaths caused by suicide per 100,000 people in 2020.

To put these stats into perspective, consider the levels in the states with the lowest statistical levels of death by suicide in 2020: New Jersey (7.1 deaths caused by suicide per 100,000 people in 2020), New York (8), Massachusetts (8.4), and Rhode Island (8.5).

In addition to the in-school support from school nurses and counselors the importance of community resources is emphasized to ensure the community is aware of the resources available. We are sharing the following resources that are available for those who feel the need for further assistance:

• The Counseling Center: For professional counseling services, please contact 575-488-2500.

• Presbyterian Medical Services (PMS): Reach out to 575-437-7404 for additional guidance and assistance.

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Agora Crisis Center – Affiliated with The University of New Mexico, Agora is accredited by the International Council for Helplines and is a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. Agora Crisis Center is confidential and offered free of charge to people of all ages anytime. Call 505-277-3013 to speak with trained volunteers.

Suicide prevention efforts are most effective when they are guided by a strategic planning process. Strategic planning can help you determine specific problems and populations on which to focus, identify activities that will be effective in preventing suicide, and prioritize your efforts to achieve maximum impact.

The Strategic Planning Approach

The City of Alamogordo Commission and Otero County Commission should create a joint commission on suicide prevention and create a multidisciplinary approach using a Strategic Planning Approach to Suicide Prevention including the following six steps:

Use data and other sources to understand how suicide affects your community and to describe the problem and its context.

Identify a small set of realistic and achievable long-term goals (e.g., reduce the suicide rate among a particular group).

Prioritize the key risk and protective factors on which to focus your prevention efforts.

Begin planning your approach by deciding which activity or combination of activities best address your key risk and protective factors.

Develop an evaluation plan to track progress toward your long-term goals, show the value of your prevention efforts, and give you the information you need to refine, expand, or determine other next steps for your programming.

Implement and evaluate your activities, and use your evaluation data to monitor implementation, solve problems, and enhance your prevention efforts.

Whether you are starting a new program or assessing your progress midway through a project, the commission can use this approach to fit its needs and established a collaborative community wide approach.

Although these steps are listed in the order in which they would generally be carried out, the commission can also move back and forth between the steps as needed. For example, it may want to revise the long-term goals after identifying the key risk and protective factors unique that this community. Or, if in the middle of a suicide prevention project, it may want to focus on the later steps in the strategic planning approach.

A community wide approach with visibility and participation of all media radio; print, online and social media is critical.

Statistics for the previous six years indicated that suicide has been a serious issue in New Mexico for a number of years.

In 2019, New Mexico was ranked number four among the states for the rates of deaths caused by suicide. There were 513 deaths by suicide in the State in that year. This represented a level of 24 cases of death by suicide for every 100,000 people in 2019.

In 2018, New Mexico was ranked second among the states for the rates of suicide deaths. There were 536 deaths caused through suicide in New Mexico in 2018. This was a level of 25 cases of death by suicide for every 100,000 people in that year.

In 2017, New Mexico was fourth among the fifty states for levels of suicide deaths. There were 491 deaths by suicide in New Mexico in that year. This represented a level of 23.3 cases of death by suicide for every 100,000 people in 2017.

Rather than continue to course of community bickering, finger pointing and attacks on the school system and public institutions, now is the time to task all institutions, business and the health care community to collaborate and eatable real goals to lower suicide rates among teens, adults, military and the elderly.

Chris Edwards

CEO 2nd Life Media/Journalist


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