Youth suicide increasing in Kansas, state makes moves to lower numbers

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TOPEKA, Kan. (SKNT) – The rate of suicides in young people is rising in Kansas.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force aims to bring people together to find the best methods of combating the issue.

The attorney general appointed former Department for Children and Families Secretary, Gina Meier-Hummel to be the coordinator on Tuesday.

She’s tasked with trying to lower youth suicides that are nearly three times higher than in 2005.

“It’s a very significant problem that we’re concerned about, not only locally but nationally,” said Bill Persinger, CEO for Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka.

“A number of groups have come together and stood up and asked what they could do to help,” Persinger said. “Our schools, our hospitals, mental health, and state of Kansas, the county, the city, and others are standing tall with that.”

Mental health experts say getting the issue out in the open is critical, and that’s what the having a task force is able to do.

“It’s best to talk about it as quickly or as early as possible so that they can seek or receive the help that they need prior to it again becoming something unmanageable,” said Dr. Abby Callis, director of quality and outcomes at Family Service and Guidance Center in Topeka.

“If they isolate, that increases their risk, so the more we’re able to talk as a community about being open and willing to discuss these things with people, the more likely we are to kind of wrap-around those who are struggling the most,” Callis said.

FSGC helps children deal with suicidal thoughts, and Valeo focuses on adults.

“The most important thing that can happen is, if you’re on the brink of hurting yourself, speak up if you hear someone speak up, do something, say something, report it,” Persinger said.

The task force works with the attorney general’s office to get the number of deaths down by organizing events, coordinating state and local efforts, and finding ways young people can have their voices heard.

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