May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Teen suicide is on the rise in Wyoming, particularly among males 15 to 19 years of age. According to the Wyoming Injury and Violence Prevention Program, youth risk behavior survey results showed 20% of students in the 6th to 12th grades in our state had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 10% said they actually attempted suicide in the past 12 months. Suicide rates in Wyoming are consistently higher than U.S. rates. Communities can work together to build protective factors that prevent youth from being at risk, and train adults to identify youth at risk and intervene quickly, according to Dr. Stephen Brown, Wyoming Behavioral Institute’s Medical Director and winner of the 2019 Natrona County Medical Society Physician Service and Wyoming Medical Society Physician of the Year awards.

Supportive and emotionally involved family, church involvement, connectedness to school and good decision making and problem solving skills are among protective factors against suicide risk, according to Dr. Brown. And he stresses the importance of educating teachers, counselors, principals and other adults working with youth to recognize the signs someone might be having suicidal thoughts. Understanding suicidality is a mental health emergency and knowing how to intervene will help impact the teen suicide rate in Wyoming, he says.

The warning signs of suicide include talking about being a burden to others, withdrawing from activities, feeling isolated from family, friends and community, sleeping too little or too much, new or increased use of alcohol or drugs, and experiencing emotions such as depression, loss of interest, irritability or anxiety. Wyoming Behavioral Institute is part of the national Zero Suicide initiative that launched in 2012, is a partner in the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and collaborates with the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Coalition. WBI offers no cost level of care mental health assessments for people of any age 24/7. Call 800-457-9312 for more information.

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