Guest column: Creating a brighter future

All of us can do a better job helping people see that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, writes Ron Gill.

Suicide in the United States has increased significantly in the past 10 years and now exceeds deaths by motor vehicle accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the increase is by middle-aged individuals. It is becoming a real public health crisis.

According to the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, suicide in Idaho is the second leading cause of death of everyone 15-to-34 years old and in males 10-to-14 years old. Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates.

The military recently released its suicide rate for active duty forces for 2013. It is a good news/bad news situation. The deaths attributable to suicide fell compared to 2012; however, the suicide deaths among National Guard and Reserve members have increased during the same time period. Overall, the suicide rate among the military is still higher than the general public.

Idaho National Guard and Reserve members, mostly middle-aged individuals, have been deployed multiple times overseas and many veterans are seeing hardships when they come back home. Those include post-traumatic stress and higher unemployment rates. All of these stresses can lead to thoughts of suicide.

Talk show host Phil Donahue once said: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” We as a nation can do much better for our military and the general public. We can help individuals see that the future can always be brighter.

There is good news in Idaho. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline has now been operating for over one year. This was accomplished with the help of volunteers, generous donations from many organizations and foundations and a limited amount of funding from the federal and state government.

The hotline has expanded its hours of operation and is working towards sustainable funding to allow a 24 hour a day, seven day per week operation. In addition, the hotline needs to have more public awareness of its services since it has only been in operation for about a year.

The hotline received a total of 999 calls in 2013 from Idahoans. In Idaho Falls there were a total of 43 calls to the hotline with 21 coming in the fourth quarter of the year alone. For all of Bonneville County, there were 48 calls, which show that the vast majority of the calls came from Idaho Falls.

What is needed to get there? More volunteers, donations, spreading the word about the hotline and more funding from the federal and state governments.

The hotline can be reached at (800)273-8255 if you need help or visit them online at http://www.idahosuicideprevention.org. If you wish to become a volunteer for the hotline please contact Nina Leary at (208)258-6992.

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