New Mexico awarded grant for suicide prevention

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

With New Mexico’s suicide rate nearly double that of the United States as a whole, counselors and legislators have been seeking ways to help.

Nationwide, about 10 people out of every 100,000 kill themselves each year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics; in New Mexico, the tally is 18 out of every 100,000.

A recent federal grant for $400,000 is specifically geared for youth suicide prevention in New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall said New Mexico has the highest rate of suicide among children in the nation. “This funding will provide important resources to help better understand the warning signs of a child in danger and foster better coordination and communication to come up with the best ways to prevent another painful loss,” Udall said.

Suicide, of course, does not limit itself to the young. In fact, the NCHS pointed out the age group most heavily afflicted are those 85 and older.

Nor does income play a factor, although New Mexico has an average household income well below the national average — about $21,000 to the nation’s nearly $30,000, according to a Web site listing federal statistics at FedStats.com.

Although more women than men attempt suicide, more men succeed and the white male is the most prevalent subject, according to the agency San Francisco Suicide Prevention, the oldest volunteer crisis line in the United States.

The prevalence of the idea of suicide in Quay County can be illustrated in the Quay County Detention Center, where Assistant Administrator T.J. Rich said between five and 10 inmates per year try to die by their own hand.

“Some try to jump off the top tier,” Rich said. “Hanging has always been popular. It could be anything from just a cry for help to serious attempt,” he said, adding none have succeeded during his 11 years with the center.

In addition to the high number of suicide attempts, Rich also said he’s seen a high number of those qualified to help.
“We’ve been through eight counselors in the last five years,” Rich said, citing the difficulty of the job, with many candidates seeking higher pay in other areas. Quay County’s average household income at roughly $17,000 per year is even lower than the state’s, according to FedStats.com.

The psychiatrist rate for Quay County is also low, said Dave Crane, a counselor at Mesa Counseling, who said they have one psychiatrist at the center who commutes two to three times a month from Las Vegas, N.M. The staff at Mesa, who counsel both children and adults, includes four therapists.

“I think it’s probably not enough,” Crane said. “We could use a few more therapists in this town. The needs are high, the economy is struggling. One of the biggest things we could do for overall well-being is better the economy.”

Another way to help, Crane said, is to seek medical help for anyone who appears suicidal.

“You should get immediate help if you thought someone was in danger. Take them immediately to the (hospital emergency room). If it’s more of a depression issue, they need to get with a professional in (the counseling) business. Some end up self-medicating with drugs or alcohol; that just exacerbates the problem, makes it even harder to treat because we have two problems instead of one.

“I’ve been in this business eight years and we’ve lost six people,” Crane said, adding if the help were sought earlier or at all, the suicides may have been prevented.

Where to seek help:

Suicide prevention hotlines:

National Hopeline Network
1-800-SUICIDE
hopeline.com

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Quay County counseling:

Mesa Counseling, youth and adults
461-6200

Raindancers Youth Services, Inc., youth only
461-3939

Teambuilders Counseling Services, youth only
461-4411

Mental Health Resources and Alcoholism Services, adults only
461-3013
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Here are some suicide-warning signs to watch for in others:

• Talking about dying — any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm.
• Recent loss — through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, loss of job, money, status, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of religious faith, loss of interest in friends, sex, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed.
• Change in personality — sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic.
• Change in behavior — can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks.
• Change in sleep patterns — insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares.
• Change in eating habits — loss of appetite and weight, or overeating.
• Diminished sexual interest — impotence, menstrual abnormalities (often missed periods).
• Fear of losing control — going crazy, harming self or others.
• Low self esteem — feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred or claiming, “everyone would be better off without me.”
• No hope for the future — believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change.

Source: San Francisco Suicide Prevention