Sedgwick County saw its highest rate of deaths by suicide in 2020

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 10:43 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - In 2020, Sedgwick County saw its highest rate of deaths by suicide in 20 years.

There were 105 people who died by suicide in 2020, according to the KU School of Medicine in Wichita.

“In the 20 years we’ve been collecting this data, Sedgwick County rates have been consistently higher than national rates,” Dr. Nicole Klaus, an assistant professor at KU’s School of Medicine, said. “We can see that our rates are rising more quickly than national rates.”

Klaus presented Sedgwick County’s suicide statistics to county commissioners at a meeting Wednesday. September is also National Suicide Prevention Month.

According to Klaus, 90% of people who died by suicide in the county in 2020 were men.

“Typically our breakdown is about 75% men, 25% women,” Klaus said in a presentation to Sedgwick County commissioners.

About 5% of deaths by suicide cited COVID-19 as a stressor. Relationships were the most common stressor in younger individuals, while in older individuals, physical health problems were more common stressors.

“What we saw in 2020 was a similar pattern to what we saw in previous years,” Klaus said when it comes to stressors.

Suicide deaths by firearms increased in 2020.

“We are also seeing rising trends in rates of suicide deaths by firearm. The 2020 numbers are consistent with that rising trend we’ve been seeing over the past several years,” Klaus noted.

In 2019, the county saw a decrease in deaths by suicide, and preliminary numbers from the first half of 2021, are on-trend with 2019.

“As of June, for the first half of 2021, we’ve recorded 37 suicide deaths for this year, which is similar to what we saw the first half of 2019 when the numbers were down a little bit,” Klaus said.

At the same time in 2020, there were 49 deaths.

Locally, 55% of people who died by suicide had a known history of mental illness, with depression and anxiety as the most common illnesses noted.

Klaus also noted that 18% of deaths had known previous suicide attempts.

Veterans accounted for 13% of suicides in the county.

During her presentation to commissioners, Klaus also highlighted new, local prevention, including COMCARE expansion efforts and increased mental health training. Expansion efforts for 988 – a new crisis hotline – are also expected to go live by 2022.

Klaus urged others to get involved in local suicide prevention efforts by attending various events locally, such as the Suspenders4Hope Run/Walk and the Party for Prevention.

Sedgwick County also announced a new teen-led initiative to prevent teen suicides. The campaign, #ZeroReasonsWhy, will work with school districts in the county, and launch campaign activities such as rallies, social media efforts, and advertisements.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the 24/7 Suicide Prevention Hotline at (316) 660-7500 or the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

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