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DHHS: One question might save someone's life

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Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) found that nearly 45,000 people lost their lives to suicide in the United States in 2016. According to new information, almost 4,300 of those cases were in California.

“Suicide is a community health problem,” Kris Huschle, a senior health education specialist with the DHHS said. She says resources are available.

“Knowing how to help and where people can get help can be lifesaving. We must be proactive versus reactive,” she said.

The CDC reported that between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates went up more than 30 percent in half the states across the country. While Humboldt County’s rates between 2005 and 2016 stayed steady, they continue to be higher than the state and national average. In 2016, Humboldt’s rates were 2.3 times that of the state average.

The DHHS offers two free suicide prevention training programs that Huschle says are valuable for anyone who wants to learn more about how to help. Mental Health First Aid, one of the programs, provides a general overview and basic skills to better identify, understand and respond to mental health and substance use issues.

A second training program, Question-Persuade-Refer, teaches participants to recognize forms of suicidal communication. For example, ask the question clearly and directly: “Are you thinking about suicide?” Begin the conversation, then link to community resources.

“A key piece of prevention is getting people trained to recognize the signs of when someone is in distress and how to offer help,” Huschle said. “It could be about suicide or not. It’s important to listen.”

The DHHS says suicide warning signs can be as direct as a person saying, “I’m going to kill myself,” or as indirect as, “People would be better off if I was gone.”

Experts say it's important to take talks of suicide seriously and to notice warning signs. Warning signs can include sudden mood changes, a general withdrawal or giving away possessions. They may also include an increase or decrease in sleep or appetite. A person thinking about suicide may increase their use of alcohol or other drugs.

Signs differ for each person, but experts say people who die by suicide communicate their distress in some way.

If you are concerned for yourself or someone else, contact the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line at 707-445-7715 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For a list of resources, visit humboldtgov.org/2096/Suicide-Prevention-Resources.

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