Zero Suicide Initiative

Suicide rates have been rising in recent years in South Dakota. Last year, 192 South Dakotans died by suicide - the most ever reported.

Suicide rates have been rising in recent years in South Dakota. Last year, 192 South Dakotans died by suicide – the most ever reported. That’s why many communities, employers and healthcare professionals are pushing toward efforts to help save lives and reverse the current trend with the Zero Suicide Initiative.

The initiative is a program developed 17 years ago for health care and behavioral healthcare systems. If those systems have the proper tools, there’s less of a chance that a patient will commit suicide after leaving their facility.

Regional Health Rapid City Hospital made a commitment within the last three months to decrease suicide rates.

Mary Kurniawan, social worker and leader on the Zero Suicide Implementation Team at Regional Health Rapid City Hospital, talked more about the program, “what the program really does is to be able to help identify who is a high risk, and then make sure that we get them the help that they need before they have any kind of actions that we that we don’t want to see.

Kurniawan also said that 50 to 60 percent of people “who died by suicide have seen healthcare professional – and the month before their death. And so this is our point of action and preventing those deaths.”

The message is of hope, with more research and resources.

Kurniawan said, “If you are somebody who is struggling with those feelings, with feelings of hopelessness and not wanting to live, or if you know somebody who is struggling to reach out for help.”

Rebecca Wood, a local participant in the suicide awareness Out of the Darkness walk held last Saturday, has a personal reason to walk, including a brother and close friends who were lost to suicide.

Wood says, “My dad came in, and I could see the look on his face, and my mom had been crying. And my dad looks at me and tells me, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but your brother John is dead.”

Wood didn’t believe it at first.

“I just talked to him on the phone yesterday … My first reaction after that was to do nothing but scream …  It’s terrible watching what it did to the rest of my family.”

Wood had struggled throughout the years with depression, anxiety and suicide ideology. Those issues only got worse after he lost his brother. But thankfully, her family loves and supports her.

“That’s the biggest thing with any of this, is it is all about the love. It’s all about the support and everything that everyone else can bring, that they can help with and that no one is alone.”

South Dakota has resources available to help individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts and support for those who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Individuals in need of help are encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Services are available 24/7. Help can also be obtained by contacting any medical provider such as a family physician, psychiatrist or hospital emergency room, as well as a Community Mental Health Center or other mental health providers in your area. If you believe someone is at risk for suicide, contact a professional immediately.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News