D51, Health Dept. collaborating to find trends, solution to suicide

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- A new report shows Mesa County has a higher rate of suicide than the state average. Now, the District is meeting with Mesa County Public Health to figure out trends, and hopefully decide on solutions.

At the school level, the District said they usually see a spike in the amount of suicide risk assessments (SARs) in April. SARs are given to students who staff feels could be suicidal because of a tip or behavior.
Tuesday morning, a small group of people from the District and the Health Department met to go over stats they’ve seen from SARs in 2017 and 2018.

"To get a fuller picture of suicide in our community, it'd be helpful to get additional data point," said Kelsey Fife, health promotions specialist at Mesa County Public Health.

This group hopes to make a big impact, by compacting this data and others to find trends and patterns within suicide attempts and completions, and eventually prevent more deaths. They have begun to meet monthly starting in 2018. Tuesday was their third meeting.

"We have a good system where we get this information on deaths, but we want to be more proactive and know more about the people who are surviving their attempts,” said Fife.

In 2017, the District did more than 500 SARs, half of the kids evaluated were considered a low-level of risk.

"We tend to see a higher increase in suicide risk assessments around holidays," said Kati Garner, coordinator of mental health and crisis for D51.

About half of the students assessed were female, and nearly 40 percent were in middle school.

"We do notice that when things happen in the community, nationally and in the state, that we kind of see that reflected in what's happening in our community," said Fife.

The District said they saw a big spike in both SARs and Safe2Tell data in February and March after the Parkland shooting. In Grand Junction, there were 93 Safe2Tell tips in February 2018, nine of those tips were concerning a person at-risk of suicide. So far in March, they’ve gotten 68 tips, 14 of which concerned an at-risk person for suicide.

"We tend to see a higher increase in suicide risk assessments around holidays," said Kati Garner, coordinator of mental health and crisis for D51.

Garner also says March and April historically show an increase in suicide attempts, in addition to holidays.

"To me I see the increase (of Safe2Tell tips) as positive because kids are getting the help that they need," said Garner.

The District is applying for some grants to bring more funding to train teachers on suicide prevention tactics across the district.



 
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