As Porter County suicide trends have improved since 2017, when suicides were 50% higher than the national average of 14 suicides per 100,000 population, county officials are working to further reduce the numbers .
In 2020, Porter County’s suicide rate was 15.3 suicides per 100,000 population, 13% above the national average and two percentage points higher than the state average.
Porter County Council received these statistics, along with advice to bring them down, from Pyrce Healthcare Group at a county council meeting on June 28. “We need it in churches, we need it in business. It can’t just be in behavioral health agencies,” Jan Pyrce said of the community effort to reduce suicide.
Pryce is the founder and managing partner of the consultancy group commissioned by Porter County Commissioners to conduct a suicide awareness and prevention assessment, for which the group received R$25,000 in funds from American Rescue. Plan Act. For this task, his agency conducted 38 interviews with individuals in county agencies, including schools, law enforcement, criminal justice, the recovery community, and state and local governments.
The assessment was conducted from November 2021 to May 2022. Statistics from the Porter County Coroner’s Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple databases were studied to understand trends in suicide services , Overdose and Mental Health of Porter County. Selected research studies were also reviewed to highlight trends and patterns of community suicide awareness and prevention efforts.
In the years from 2012 to 2020, Porter County’s suicide rate was lower than the national average only one year, in 2019, and then by only a tenth of a percentage point. Through their interviews, Pyrce’s group identified four key findings.
Stigma is a barrier to accessing help. “We need to make this meaningful in schools,” Pyrce said. “We are not saying that someone committed suicide. We say someone died by suicide.
Wait times for first outpatient behavioral health appointments are too long and it is difficult to access inpatient behavioral health treatment. “I think some of the people we interviewed experienced four to six week wait times to access these services,” Pyrce said. Two-thirds of those who attempt suicide have no formal contact with mental health professionals after their suicide attempt, Pyrce said.
Fragmentation of suicide awareness and prevention initiatives was the third finding, followed by challenges among behavioral health staff. “We want to make sure there’s county-wide participation in these programs,” Pyrce said.
She gave five basic recommendations to move the county’s suicide prevention efforts forward. 1) Further develop an integrated Porter County suicide awareness and prevention program accomplished by eight goals. 2) Develop a public health model for suicide awareness and prevention. 3) Develop a 24/7/365 behavioral health crisis center. 4) Develop a peer suicide awareness and prevention program with people with “lived experiences”. 5) Develop an evaluation and results framework for the suicide awareness and prevention program.
Now the county will have to move from the theoretical to the concrete. “What would be your suggestions to help us,” asked Greg Simms, County Council Member, D-3rd District, at the end of the presentation. “When you’ve looked at all your stuff, what recommendations do you have for us?” How do we implement what you ask? »
“I think you have to build an integrated structure,” Pyrce replied.
“How do we do that?” Sims asked. Some of its eight goals were specific, such as “Continue to develop and implement county-wide stigma reduction programs,” while others were vague, such as “Continue to focus on integration of physical and mental health”.
“I think you have people involved in this report who would be very interested in doing this,” Pyrce said.
County Council Chairman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd District, chimed in and mentioned forming a county mental health task force. “It would be that next conversation to engage the key players who were involved in this, the key mental health players in the county and work with the commissioners to see how they want to move in that direction,” Rivas said, mentioning such a stakeholders such as Valparaiso University and Porter-Starke Services.
Shelly Jones is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.