ISU Headlines

ISU’s Institute of Rural Health works to reduce suicide in Idaho

Posted August 4, 2008

The Idaho State University Institute of Rural Health is working to reduce suicide rates in Idaho, which consistently ranks among the top 10 states for its rate of suicides.

Factors thought to be involved in high suicide rates in the Intermountain West include isolation, access to services, an independent culture, access to lethal means and stigma concerning help-seeking.

“A recent report demonstrates that about 46 percent of Americans will have some type of mental disorder during their lifetimes,” said Ann Kirkwood, director of the Youth Suicide Prevention Project at ISU’s Institute of Rural Health. “Most of them will experience symptoms before the age of 14. If we can treat these children early, we can avoid long-term consequences in adolescence and adulthood, including suicide.”

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Idaho young people and the ninth for the population overall. Four studies of youth who completed suicide showed that 82 to 94 percent had a mental health and/or substance abuse disorder at the time of death. In another study, 72 percent of the youth gave no verbal ques before death. Studies also show that ambivalence exists even until the moment of death.

This study validates the feeling of an eastern Idaho mom, Jeni Griffin, who lost her son to suicide. “I think that people who die by suicide really don’t want to. They want someone to come and save them. But they feel like they have no hope.”

The Idaho Youth Suicide Prevention Project offers hope by partnering with other organizations to provide statewide trainings, distribute educational materials and support suicide prevention campaigns.

“Grass root organizations are partnering with ISU to get the word out about suicide prevention,” said Chandra Story, grant project coordinator at ISU’s Institute of Rural Health. “For example, the Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho sponsored billboards and the ISU counseling department provided support for a suicide prevention walk in March.”

The Idaho Youth Suicide Prevention Project is funded by the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The goal of the Idaho Youth Suicide Prevention Project is to reduce suicide attempts and completions for youth ages 10-24.