The issue of suicide is getting more attention in the Wood River Valley.
The city councils of Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley have recently signed on to a proclamation declaring September as National Suicide Prevention Month, and a presentation on the subject is expected to be made soon before the Bellevue City Council.
“Suicide is a major public-health issue, and each death affects numerous family members, loved ones and, by extension, the entire community,” Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw said during a City Council meeting Monday. “I urge all citizens to be leaders in prevention and to participate in training with the 5B Suicide Prevention Alliance.”
Tammy Davis, executive director of The Crisis Hotline Idaho, stood before the Sun Valley City Council on Sept. 5 to share two concerning statistics.
“Our national suicide rate has increased by almost 25 percent [since 1999], and Idaho has the sixth highest suicide rate between the ages of 11 and 35,” she said.
Davis also outlined the hotline’s mission to educate volunteers and the general public on the “five signs of suicide,” such as withdrawal and poor self-care, and how to intervene when those signs are evident.
“The hope is that we can be able to look around at our friends and neighbors and say, ‘Something’s wrong, I’m worried about you,’ and reach out,” she said.
Since 1987, the organization’s 24-hour phone line has served more than 12,000 people in crisis. Davis said call volume is only on the rise: In 2017, the center received 472 calls and in 2018 that number rose 24 percent to 583. So far this year, 400 calls have come in from people in the valley, she said. The other half have come from across the nation.
“We’ve had calls from Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and, interestingly enough, around 17 percent have come from Philadelphia,” she said.
The Philadelphians had been referred from overwhelmed crisis call centers: an indication of a growing epidemic with too few resources.
No matter the area code, Davis said, her 12 volunteers have never missed a call.
In the coming months, she hopes to bring the hotline’s affiliated My Life Matters suicide-prevention program to more middle schools across the Wood River Valley and beyond.
“My hope is to reach out to Fairfield and Twin Falls—I’m actually going down to there to see where My Life Matters is most needed,” Davis said.
She added that the program is expanding its outreach into the Latino community to reflect Idaho’s growing Hispanic population.
Hendricks expressed appreciation of Davis’ work before handing her the signed proclamation confirming Sun Valley’s recognition of the epidemic.
“We appreciate your involvement and service—it’s not an easy road,” he said.
The next hotline volunteer training session, titled “Active Listening Skillbuilding,” will occur on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9-4:30 p.m. at Studio 213 and the Bead Shop in Bellevue. To register for the free session, visit crisishotlineidaho.org/.
The 5B Suicide Prevention Alliance has also formed a Survivors of Suicide Support Group, for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. The group meets on the third Monday of every month at the Flourish Foundation office at 1030 Airport Way in Hailey. There are two separate meetings each month, one for adults and one for adolescents. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.