Avera Medical Minute: “Ask The Question” campaign fights increase in South Dakota suicides

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 10:49 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A 2019 survey showed that 25% of high school-age students had seriously considered committing suicide.

It’s a number that shocked many.

But those who work daily to try and prevent people from taking their own lives say this is a problem that’s not getting better. It is indeed getting worse and in South Dakota, it has sounded an alarm.

It’s one of those facts that just leaves you dumbfounded.

“We in this community have just suffered some really tragic suicides. It is by no means though limited to this community.” Dr. Matthew Stanley is a psychiatrist with Avera and says this problem is real and that more people need to realize it. Last year in South Dakota a record number of suicides were reported. 198 people ended their lives.

For decades suicide was, on average, the 10th leading cause of death in America. It’s not anymore.

“But it’s actually been many years now that it’s the second leading cause of death among those age 10 to 34.”, said Stanley.

From 10th place to second place among the younger population in America. Why are suicide numbers increasing like this? Stanley says part of it’s a mystery. Part of it is the pandemic.

“There was a lot of increased and unusual stressors throughout the country, actually throughout the world. WHO indicated across the world anxiety and depression rates were up about 25%.”, said Stanley.

But Stanley tells us he also believes social media is a factor: Most everyone’s life looks perfect when viewed through a news feed or a picture.

The fastest growing demographic when it comes to suicide? Girls between the ages of 10 to 14 years of age.

This problem has become so severe that Avera Health has made the decision to expand its behavioral health program. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to meet the need this community has when it comes to this tragic issue.

“We’ve had to expand our child and adolescent psychiatric beds here because we are seeing so much more suicidal thoughts.”, said Stanley.