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In 2019 there were 9 reported suicides in Kittitas County. As horrible as that number sounds, this represented a drop from 15 suicides reported in 2018.

A 2019 survey found that 24% of 10th graders in Kittitas County reported having suicidal ideation at some point in the past month.

Those numbers should be kept in mind when mental health experts talk about concerns that 2020 with its multitude of crisis and challenges, represents severe mental health risks.

The suicide rate was already a concern in Kittitas County, this year potentially makes it even more critical.

September is national Suicide Prevention Month. Locally, there will be a free virtual Suicide Awareness for Everyone (SAFE) training from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Sept. 22. This event is organized by Comprehensive Healthcare. Registration for this event can be found on the Events section of the Comprehensive Healthcare website at, or at this direct link:

Topic covered during the training session include:

n Behavioral health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

n Suicide statistics.

n Suicide prevention and wellness.

n How to help someone experiencing thoughts of harming themselves, and what to do in the event of a behavioral health crisis.

The first hurdle encountered when addressing suicide is to overcome societal stigmas attached to mental health — namely people need to be more comfortable talking about mental health struggles. For people to become more comfortable, all of us need to be more accepting and open to the discussions.

It’s cliche but often after a person has killed him or her self, the reaction of friends and family is, “We never knew …”

But sometimes we do know, or suspect, but are not sure we know what to say.

Even if it’s a stumbling effort, there is a value to a person knowing that you care and have noticed they are hurting.

As a society we have not addressed mental health issues very well. If you look at hard-to-address topics such as homelessness, drug use and even violent crime, there is often an underlying mental health issue that was never adequately addressed.

Sometimes we get tied up in how much it would cost to fix public mental health services, while the actual cost of not addressing mental health soars beyond comprehension.

On the plus side, more people are coming to around to understanding that mental health issues need to be specifically addressed.

Although the effort has fallen out of the spotlight with all the other crisis, there are people still working on a proposal to increase the Kittitas County sales tax to help finance mental health services.

At some point in the near future we need to have a healthy community discussion on this proposal and hopefully bring it to fruition.


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