CRISIS: Suicide in West Virginia

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US Route 52 in McDowell County, W.Va.
US Route 52 in McDowell County, W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – According to CBS News, the State of West Virginia ranks seventh in national suicide rates, with 16.6 people per 100,000 committing suicide each year.

“Suicide is a major cause of preventable death in West Virginia,” stated a recent news release from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), adding, “In 2015, 340 people in the state died by suicide, the 14th leading cause of death in the state. That means someone in West Virginia dies by suicide nearly every 24 hours. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that for every completed suicide, there are 12 people who attempt it.”

If the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s estimates are correct, roughly a dozen West Virginians attempt to commit suicide each day.

In recognizing this alarming statistic, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) today announced the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, is partnering with First Choice Services, a local non-profit organization based in Charleston, to answer calls from West Virginians and offer assistance during their time of need.

“There is a clear advantage in having these calls answered locally,” said Kimberly Walsh, Deputy Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities. “West Virginians take care of each other and using the Lifeline will lead to a greater understanding of ways to effectively support our families and neighbors.”

Calls to 1-800-273-TALK will be answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All call line staff have received training in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills, the gold standard in screening and assisting suicidal callers. Callers to the Lifeline are provided crisis counseling, treatment referrals, and follow-up services. When necessary, emergency procedures are used to dispatch first responders. All services offered by the Suicide Prevention Lifeline are free and confidential.

“The partnership marks a concerted, statewide effort to make suicide intervention services more widely available,” added Walsh. “This initiative will significantly enhance the state’s ability to ensure that those who reach out for help get the help they need.”

Last year, approximately 40% of West Virginians who called the Lifeline were veterans.

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