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September Is National Suicide Prevention Month

 September 22, 2021 at 10:16 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 September is national suicide prevention month. And the number of reported suicides in San Diego county declined slightly in 2020 compared to the previous year. That's according to an annual report released this month by the San Diego county suicide prevention council, where Stan Collins is a prevention specialist. He joins us now with more Stan welcome. Speaker 2: 00:21 Thank you for having me, Speaker 1: 00:23 According to your annual report, the total number of suicides dropped from 429 in 2019 to 419 in 2020. How significant is that decrease? Speaker 2: 00:35 Well, I think it's first, you have to recognize that each of those numbers on paper is a life is a community, a family that's experienced a tragedy. So although we have some hope about the numbers and the gain, you know, the reductions from 2018 are slightly more significant when we had, you know, 460. Um, but it's encouraging, Speaker 1: 00:55 But what do you think could have contributed to this decrease? Speaker 2: 00:59 I think part of it is just, there's been a lot more awareness over the last couple of years about what resources are available. I think our collective mental health was impacted during the past year and a half. And I think folks are, although we're, we were worried about the additional stressors that the pandemic and, you know, the, the other unrest brought to us, I think it's has to do with a lot of work from a lot of different people, letting them know what resources are available, but as a society, I think more embracing conversations about mental health. Speaker 1: 01:27 Um, I mean, and as you mentioned, you know, with the extra stress and pressures from a global pandemic, I mean, were you expecting those numbers to increase or, or do you think in some ways the pandemic may have reduced stress for some people Speaker 2: 01:40 I don't know about reducing stress. I think there was a lot of fears that suicides were going to increase with the added stressors historically what we've seen in response to other tragedies or pandemics. The way that I refer to it is that we felt the earthquake, but maybe the tidal wave has yet to reach our shores. So I think it's, you know, as we're reemerging back into the world, transitioning out, you know, whether that's kids back into school or us back into the workplace, I think it's really important for us to keep that focus on our mental wellness and realize that we're all going to continue to be under stressors for quite a while now. So I think it's important to remain vigilant Speaker 1: 02:13 That in mind, I mean, is the county doing something different now than it has in the past in terms of improving treatments? Speaker 2: 02:21 Well, regarding suicide prevention, a couple of years ago, the San Diego county suicide prevention council released an update to our strategic plan. We're one of the few counties in California that actually has a plan. We're really fortunate that county behavioral health really invest in suicide prevention from the up to us campaign to a school-based project and the council. And so over the past few years, there's nine strategies outlined in that plan and we've been able to build upon each of those layers. And so what we're really trying to do is get everyone to understand that each of us is just one spoke in the wheel, but no one entity can prevent suicide. And it's really about getting people outside of mental health and outside of suicide prevention to really embrace role and empower them to understand that every one of us can help someone find their reasons for living Speaker 1: 03:04 Rates of suicide higher for certain age groups in 2020. Speaker 2: 03:08 So demographically, it does vary. So overall the numbers did go down, but looking at some more at the national data, there are specific groups, uh, young African-American men we saw, uh, did see a slight increase. So we can't just across the board say suicides or down the pandemic obviously affected different groups in different ways. And so we can't just take it as a blanket when we got to keep working, Speaker 1: 03:30 You're a suicide prevention specialist. So what does that mean on a day-to-day basis for you? Speaker 2: 03:36 A lot of what I do is around education and awareness. And as I was just speaking about, it's really about empowering the individual, whether they're a nurse, whether they're a school counselor, a law enforcement officer and EMT somebody at the unemployment line, just to first recognize warning signs, and then to be comfortable to have a conversation, to ask the question and not be afraid to say, are you thinking about suicide? We have a lot of fears about if we talk about it, we're going to cause it to happen. And the opposite is true only by talking openly and directly about suicide. Can we ever hope to prevent it? And a lot of what I do is just getting people to trust their instincts and embrace their own abilities. Like I said, not to convince somebody not to die, but to help them find reasons for living. Speaker 1: 04:17 And as I mentioned earlier, it is national suicide prevention month. How can people help someone they think may be suicidal? Speaker 2: 04:25 I think the most important thing we can do is hold space and listen. Um, like I just talked about not be afraid to introduce a conversation about suicide and let them know that I'm willing to have that conversation. I think another part of it too, is not be afraid to contact the crisis resources here in San Diego county. We're blessed to have the San Diego county access and crisis line. And I really want to emphasize to folks. It's not just, if you are in crisis, if you are supporting somebody through a crisis, if you're preparing to have a conversation with somebody, if you're sitting on the couch and you ask them, Hey, are you thinking about suicide? And the answer is yes, one of the best next steps is to call the access and crisis line and say, okay, what do we do now? How do I help keep this person safe? Speaker 1: 05:03 And other than the crisis line, are there other ways that the county is reaching out to help those in need? Speaker 2: 05:10 Yeah, we provide a training. It's called question persuade, refer QPR. So we call it a gatekeeper training and it's basically to help prepare individuals again, recognize the warning signs, have that conversation and then know what their next steps are. So anybody who's interested can go to SPC for suicide prevention, council, SPC San diego.org, either sign up to attend a training or to host a training. But that's a great first step. Speaker 1: 05:33 I have been speaking with Stan Collins, suicide prevention specialist for San Diego county suicide prevention council. Stand. Thank you very much. Speaker 2: 05:41 Really appreciate you shining a spotlight on suicide prevention. Thank you. Speaker 1: 05:44 If you have an emergency or just want to find out what help is available, you can call the San Diego access and crisis line at 8 8 8 7 2 4 7 2 4 0. Speaker 3: 05:59 Uh,

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September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and San Diego County is one of the fewer counties in California to have a strategic plan to help prevent suicides.
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