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Youth suicides in Kansas on the rise

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MGN(KALB)
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 3:07 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas State Child Death Review Board saw an almost 10% increase in youth suicides in 2018.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the suicide rate among children in Kansas continued its distributing trend in 2018 with an almost 10% increase over 2017, according to a report by the Kansas State Child Death Review Board.

According to AG Schmidt, 35 Kansas children died by suicide in 2018, up from 32 in 2017. He said the 2018 rate shows five youth suicides per 100,000 residents, which continues a troubling trend in the youth suicide rate over the past decade, which was only 1.1 per 100,000 residents 10 years ago. He said in 2018, suicide accounted for 31% of all child deaths from age 1 to 17 years, excluding natural cases, which is up from a four year average of 22% from 2014 to 2017.

“The sad news that our youth suicide rate continues to increase is another indication that Kansans must remain steadfast and resolute in our efforts to reduce the factors that lead a young person to end their life,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “I appreciate the dedicated work of the State Child Death Review Board in compiling this information to help inform policymakers and stakeholders in efforts to reverse this trend.”

Schmidt said in June of 2018, he and the Tower Mental Health Foundation formed the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force to determine efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the risk of youth suicide and provide recommendations on further steps to be taken.

According to the AG, in 2019, the Legislature created the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator to implement recommendations of the task force. He said Gina Meier-Hummel serves as the state’s first coordinator.

“This disturbing trend demands that all of us pay attention to the young people in our lives and those at risk in our community, especially those who right now may be extremely isolated,” Meier-Hummel said. “The pandemic, in particular, requires us to reach out to these youths in different ways than we have in the past and to be diligent. The youth we have visited with who have some type of lived experience with suicide say, ‘we want to be seen, heard and loved,’ what an important message.”

Schmidt said the State Child Death Review Board’s annual report analyzes all child deaths that happened in the 2018 calendar year, which is the most recent year for which data is available. He said the overall child death rate in 2018 was 58.6 deaths per 100,000 residents, which is an increase from what had been record-low rates reported for the last four years. He said the report showed that Kansas had 414 child fatalities in 2018, compared to 2017′s 396 child fatalities.

“The data provided by this report is critical to our understanding of child deaths in Kansas. More importantly, we know behind each of these statistics are stories of children lost, families who grieve, and communities impacted forever,” said Sara Hortenstine, the board’s executive director. “We have a responsibility to learn from each of these difficult circumstances and take action to prevent future deaths of Kansas children.”

According to Schmidt, in addition to policy recommendations, the report includes prevention points that families can take to decrease the likelihood of a child’s death.

Schmidt said the board is a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency volunteer board organized by law within the Attorney Genera’s Office to look at trends and patterns that highlight risk factors in the deaths of children, from birth through 17 years of age.

To view the full report, click here.

If you or anyone you know are in need of crisis support, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator is located in the Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General and can be reached at 1-800-828-9475, or online at ag.ks.gov/victim-services.

Copyright 2020 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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