TWIN FALLS, Idaho — According to recent statistics, the state of Idaho has the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country with a rate of 23 suicides per 100,000 people, nearly double the national average, which is 13 per 100,000.
Since mental health is such an issue throughout the state, St. Luke's has decided to host a free community-wide seminar to educate residents and give them a better understanding of the issue. The meeting will cover a wide range of topics, discussing the myths of suicide, potential warning signs, and more.
"We want to increase awareness of the problem of suicide; we want to make people feel more comfortable talking about it. We want to reduce the stigma, we want to reduce the myths associated with it, and we want to increase people's willingness to have those conversations with other people," said Christopher Edwards, Lead Psychologist for the Behavior Health Service Line.
As reported by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, from 2014 to 2018, there were 219 deaths by suicide in the Magic Valley. The numbers have a rate of 22.5 people per 100,000. Of those 219, 107 were in Twin Falls County with a rate of 25.6 per 100,000.
The age demographic attributing to Magic Valley suicide numbers varies. For people from ages 10 to 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death, and for people ages 35-44, it was the third leading cause of death.
There is now an added layer of concern of these numbers increasing due to the mental strain COVID-19 has on people.
"In 2019 versus 2020 there were three times the amount of people who had significant anxiety symptoms; it was 8% in 2019, 25% in 2020. If we look at depressive symptoms, there is also a significant gain, four times the amount of depressive symptoms, from 6% to about 24%," said Edwards.
Although Idaho is ranked high in suicide and mental health issues, it is ranked among the lowest in behavioral health service providers to help with care. Organizers hope this event will b able to better equip residents and have them provide some support.
Edwards said, "People who are talking about suicide are talking about it because they have a concern. Even if someone is talking about it, maybe a little bit light-heartedly. If they're talking about it, then to some degree, there is something that's bothering them, and it's kind of an opening to say, please talk to me."
The webinar is set for Thursday, September 24 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. To register for the meeting, you can head to St. Luke's website.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357