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SD Suicide Numbers Concerning to Mental-Health Community


Thursday, July 29, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- Suicide-prevention officials in South Dakota are reminding residents facing a mental-health crisis there are resources available, after the state reported some alarming statistics this month.

The Department of Health said that in the first quarter of this year, 59 South Dakotans died by suicide. That compares with 28 in the same period last year. It also puts the state on pace to exceed last year's total of 186.

Sheri Nelson, suicide prevention director for the state's 211 Helpline Center, said in 2020, many people were feeling a heightened sense of mental stress caused by the pandemic, prompting them to rally around each other.

She said for some, that feeling might be different this year.

"As things are opening up, they get that feeling back again of, 'I'm going through this alone,'" Nelson explained.

Nationally, health experts noted similar observations about people supporting each other last year, with preliminary Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing a nearly 6% decline in suicides in the U.S.

In South Dakota, the Helpline Center provides crisis support 24 hours a day throughout the year. It also offers training in the area of prevention.

While going through a global crisis might create more awareness, Nelson noted lingering effects still can be felt. She pointed to past events, such as the SARS epidemic or the 2008 financial crisis, when there were increases in suicides among certain demographics.

"There was that increase in suicides," Nelson recounted. "But the main thing is to let people know that there is help available to them, and they do not need to go through this alone."

She added there must still be conversations to remove any remaining stigma about a person going through a mental-health crisis. Prior to the pandemic in 2019, South Dakota had the eighth-highest suicide rate in the United States.

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