Suicide Prevention Task Force talks 2012 stats and upcoming trainings, projects

The Fremont County Suicide Prevention Task Force met Friday afternoon. (Joshua Scheer photo)

The Fremont County Suicide Prevention Task Force met Friday afternoon. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, reporter,

(Pavillion, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Suicide Prevention Task Force met Friday to discuss the previous year’s suicide statistics and provide updates on programs and trainings in the works.

The number of suicides in Fremont County in 2012 surpassed the all-time high, with 19. The previous high was 18 in 1985 and 2005. In 2011, there were 13 suicides.

The task force of abou 12 people met at the United Methodist Church in Pavillion. Looking at the annual statistics, the team tried to identify any trends.

One of the first things to jump out was that seven of the 19 suicides occurred on Thursdays. That marked the largest amount for a single day.

“For some reason, Thursday is a bad day,” said Task Force Chairman Elk Sage.

Tauna GroomSmith of the Fremont County Prevention Management Organization hypothesized that Thursdays saw more because its toward the end of a work week when people are more worn out.

Fourteen of the 19 were men and 11 of the men were either single, divorced or widowed. It was noted that men coming out of failed relationships are more at risk.

Five of the individuals were of Native Americans, Sage noted, adding that it is the highest amount in the recent future. The rest were caucasian. The were no Native American suicides in 2011.

Prevention Management’s Kelly Rees said there were no trends that jumped out regarding occupation. Occupations of the individuals ranged from construction to ranch hand to firefighter. Three were unemployed.

Most of the suicides were by gunshot. The second most common method was overdose. Ten of the 19 occurred in Riverton. Five were in Lander. The others were spread throughout the county.

After recapping the details, the conversation turned to getting help to middle-aged men, who seemed to be hit hardest this year. Ages of suicide victims ranged from 23 to 81. Fremont County Public Health RN Jamie Cardine said she’s read studies that show most men who attempt or commit suicide sought help but most were given drugs and sent on their way.

“They wanted someone to ask, ‘Why do you want to die?'” Cardine said.

Much conversation then turned to getting training to regular doctors on how to talk to suicidal individuals so that the automatic referral isn’t just drugs.

One individual at the meeting admitted to attempting suicide last year. The person said their doctor just put them on drugs, Paxil specifically, and eventually the drugs made the depression worse. The person said their doctor never suggested getting counseling, only upping the medications.

Elk said there is a statewide initiative to push for more suicide prevention training for medical personnel.

Paster Doug Hill of the United Methodist Church asked if there was a referral system for doctors to send their patients to counselors.

Cardine knew of one doctor who did not know they could call Fremont Counseling Services and set up emergency appointments. Central Wyoming College Counselor Lance Goede said if anything it would be good for doctors to be able to have a brief five minute discussion with patients who seem to want to talk. Cardine suggested drafting a letter to send to doctors at the hospitals and private practices just giving the information that they can pass on to clients.

Upcoming training and projects:

-On Jan. 21 and Jan. 22, four SafeTALK  trainings will be held at the Wind River Hotel and Casino entertainment room. Trainings begin at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day. Each session runs for three hours. SafeTALK programs train individuals in how to speak with people dealing with suicidal thoughts. The program was developed by a Canadian group called LivingWorks.

-An Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is scheduled for Feb. 13 and 14 at the Prevention Management Office in Riverton. The training is limited to 10 participants and attendees must commit to both days. The $325 registration cost is covered by a grant. To register call Kelly Rees at 463-0622.

-The Northern Arapaho Meth/Suicide Initiative, Shoshone and Arapaho Tobacco Prevention, and Easter Shoshone Tribal Health are hosting a round dance from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Eastern Shoshone Boys & Girls Club in Fort Washakie.

-Mapping a Healthier Fremont County is putting together a Life R U Ready Project for Fremont County schools in May. The project puts students through real-life situations where they are shown the consequences of poor choices. Cardine said Gillette has used the program in recent years and has seen a “huge drop in drug use.” The program as designed doesn’t specifically address suicide, but Cardine is planning on adding an element locally. “It hits them in the face with reality,” she said. Seventh- and eighth-graders from St. Stephen’s, Fort Washakie, Dubois and Shoshoni will participate. All other Fremont County schools have been invited but haven’t signed on yet.