A new campaign aims to prevent suicides in Kern County


Suicide is a topic that continues to make headlines following the deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

In light of the tragic events, Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services presented a new suicide prevention campaign to the Board of Supervisors. Called ‘Zero Suicide,’ the plan is already partly in place.

“Currently we’re already using several of the components, which include things like: question, persuade, refer, which is a one to two hour training for paraprofessionals to teach people–whether it be school teachers or other agencies how to ask the right question and then persuade someone to get services,” explained Bill Walker, the director of Kern County Behavioral Health.
According to a new CDC report, there has been a 30 percent increase in suicides nationwide from 1999 to 2016.

In Kern County, 110 people died after taking their own life last year. Seven of them were under the age of 20. The suicide prevention hotline in Kern County also received over 30,000 calls last year–a number that’s been up recently, according to Kern Behavioral Health. But, they see this increase as a sign that people are reaching out for help more than before.

Walker even says that suicide is the most preventable cause of death in the United States.

“When we finish Zero Suicide, it’ll be the protocol for all of us to be asked how we’re doing when we see our doctors–when we see certain professionals,” Walker said. “And if the answer is ‘I’m not doing well,’ they’ll have answers for where to refer us.”

Walker and his colleagues have already found that this approach greatly recudes suicides.

You can always turn to the 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-991-5272. Though it’s a 1-800 number, your call will go to a local call center.

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