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Media advisory: Johnson County recognizes suicide prevention week Sept. 5-11

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Kansas and the second leading cause of death for Kansans ages 10 to 34. Suicide rates in the U.S. are the highest they have been in three decades. Each year, an average of 42,773 Americans commit suicide.

To address this growing concern, the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition was established in 2012 to help local individuals and families affected by suicide through preventative resources, education and community partnerships.

Johnson County Government will recognize National Suicide Prevention Week Sept. 5 to 11 with several initiatives. On Sept. 1, Johnson County’s Board of County Commissioners issued a proclamation to raise awareness for suicide prevention.

Law enforcement to promote suicide national lifeline

Johnson County law enforcement will promote the national suicide prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, on law enforcement vehicles throughout the county, and 500 magnets will be distributed to local officers to place on emergency vehicles.

“Law enforcement in Johnson County is dedicated to serving and protecting our communities,” said Shawn Reynolds, Olathe Police Department. “This magnet campaign provides another opportunity to connect people who may be considering suicide to a resource that exists all day, every day for assistance during difficult times. We want people to know no matter what they are dealing with, there are people who care about them and are willing to assist them. Calling this number will connect individuals to skilled, trained counselors for free and confidential help.”

Schools to distribute Suicide Prevention Week toolkits

Johnson County school districts will distribute resources to students on suicide warning signs, local resources and other items to raise awareness for prevention.

“The materials provided in the school toolkit are important as they focus on direct and accurate information for teens and families in need,” said Joe Kordalski, De Soto school district social worker. “The posters and wristbands serve as valuable talking points to use with teens who are at risk or for peers who want to support each other when they are concerned.”

Upcoming suicide prevention training Sept. 15 and 16

Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is a two-day workshop for caregivers who want to feel more comfortable, confident and competent in helping to prevent the immediate risk of suicide. To learn more, call 913-715-7880 or visit www.jocogov.org/mentalhealth.

“ASIST has helped countless participants process emotions behind suicide, understand what actions to take when helping someone who may be suicidal, and build confidence in the helping process.” said Kevin McGuire of Johnson County Mental Health Center. “ASIST is such a valuable training to help individuals be prepared to interact with someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide and to make sure they are given the opportunity to seek safety. Suicide does not discriminate and knows no boundaries, so it is vital to have helpers trained throughout our community.”

Jason Flatt Act: New Kansas legislation affecting schools effective Jan. 1, 2017

Kansas was the 19th state to pass the Jason Flatt Act, requiring at least one hour of suicide prevention training each year for all school district personnel.

“Our school district has long focused on suicide prevention as part of our student well-being plans,” said Mark Schmidt, executive director of student services at the Blue Valley School District. “The Jason Flatt Act provides guidance that will reinforce and enhance our efforts to maintain the physical and physiological safety of all students.”

About suicide in Kansas

In 2015, 477 individuals died by suicide in Kansas, and 72 of those were in Johnson County. In 2014, 454 people committed suicide in the state, and 72 of those were in the county.

About youth suicide

The number of youth in the U.S. who attempted suicide or seriously considered attempting suicide has increased in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.6 percent of youth surveyed attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months before the 2015 survey, compared to 6.9 percent in 2007. In 2015, 17.7 percent of youth surveyed seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months before the survey, compared to 14.5 percent in 2007.