Did you know that in 2016, Thurston County had the highest number of suicides in county history? Almost doubling the number of deaths by suicide in the last few years, to a new high of fifty. Thurston County’s suicide rate compared to Washington State’s average has been higher for many years. Suicides tend to occur more often in rural areas and small towns. According to the suicide death rate data, conducted by Thurston County Public Health & Services department, the city of Rainier had the most deaths followed by Yelm, Olympia, Tumwater and South Lacey.
In a recent interview with the Olympian, the Thurston County coroner listed various reasons leading to a person’s motive for suicide including the recent recession and money problems, veterans coming back from war and untreated mental health issues. All probable causes, but not a clear answer for the rising number of suicides in the county. Statistics from the Washington State Department of Health shows that a little more than half of suicides involved using a firearm. I-1491 passed in the November election, allowing courts to mandate orders for individuals who pose a risk to themselves and own firearms to have their firearm access removed. The passing of this law reveals that suicide is becoming a greater statewide issue.
The Crisis Clinic of Thurston and Mason counties is one of many non-profits dedicated to crisis intervention. The Clinic has two different programs – Crisis Line and Youth Help Line – calls are answered by volunteers with over 60 hours of training involving suicide prevention, mental health, chemical dependency, interpersonal violence and crisis intervention techniques. Both lines are available to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteers can help with emotional support, finding additional resources, problem resolution and other forms of support. Callers can talk about anything that causes them any sort of grief.
Personally, I have suffered from moderate depression since March with a spike of major depression from September into October. I never thought about ending my own life, until those few dark months. I was so numb every day. I didn’t eat for days, sometimes because I felt so awful I forgot to take care of myself. I lost ten pounds within a few months. My anxiety took a toll on my ability to handle the smallest amount of stress. Because of my depression, I isolated myself from many of my friends and thought I had nobody to talk to about what was happening to me on the inside. I ended up hitting myself in the forehead a lot, trying to mute the noise inside my mind. When I discovered I was starting to bruise where I had been hurting myself, I decided I had enough of self-torment. I called the Crisis Clinic every time I felt like hitting myself for two weeks. Coincidentally, this the same time that I now mark as the beginning of my recovery.
Programs like the Crisis Line are sometimes the only way for individuals to get a form of counseling. Many people do not have the financial resources or insurance to cover appropriate mental health treatments, such as talking with a counselor. It seems that with the recent rise in suicide rates, mental illness is becoming a part of our hectic go-go-go lifestyles. I know that improving the way our Nation tackles the widespread epidemic of mental illness would benefit everyone who has been affected by mental health issues. Instead of simply making a law to stop access to firearms for someone who is on the verge of contemplating suicide, there should be more preventative measures prior to hitting this point of literal “do or die”. The Crisis Line saved my well-being countless times. These outreach programs for mental health are essential in a society that does not treat mental illness as seriously as it should. More needs to be done to improve mental health and to enhance the wellbeing of those around us.
Crisis Line: 360-586-2800
College Counseling Services: 360-596-5306
Thurston County Victim Advocate: 360-786-5540
Safe Place(24 hrs.): 360-754-6300
Campus Safety: 360-596-5299
Youth Help Line: 360-586-2777