Let's talk about it - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Let's talk about it

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 1:25 am

COEUR d'ALENE - It can be a difficult, heart-aching topic, but even addressing it - just bringing it up - can be an important breakthrough.

Especially here, around Coeur d'Alene, where the suicide rate is the highest in Idaho, the state with the sixth highest rate nationally.

While it can be much easier to ignore the problem than talk about it, the only way those alarming statistics will reverse course is if people tackle the issue head on.

That means recognizing it, and discussing it.

"It doesn't have to be direct, it doesn't have to be threatening," said Raquel Kellicut, a therapist and grief counselor on reaching out to someone who may be having troubling thoughts. "It's expressing an interest in somebody."

Kellicut was one of several experts who talked about the issue at the Save A Life Workshop, the day-long seminar aimed at raising awareness and educating people how they can spot and deal with suicide in their day-to-day lives.

Reaching out to those who may be at risk, educating children about the topic earlier in school, and pooling resources to combat the problem are key in moving forward, they said. Around 100 people attended the seminar, put on by the Christian Community Coalition, at Lake City Community Church.

"Seventh and tenth (grade) is too little, too late," said Kelli Aiken, Lakes Magnet Middle school counselor, on when children in the Coeur d'Alene school district begin to learn about suicide and mental health. "I think we need to explore something for middle school students."

In 2011, 284 people committed suicide in Idaho, 45 in the Coeur d'Alene area.

Why, exactly, the Coeur d'Alene area has the highest rate in the state, research doesn't say. But added to those numbers are the national statistics that say 1 in every 10 single vehicle auto accidents is actually a suicide attempt and that 1 in every 10 students has at least thought about it, making the statistics even more alarming.

In 2010, Idaho had the sixth highest suicide rate in the country. The most recent annual statistics, meanwhile, show the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office responded to 146 suicide calls, 27 of which were attempts. Nine were successful attempts.

"Even nine successful is just too high," said sheriff-elect Ben Wolfinger.

Chris Lauri, pastor at Anthem Friends Church in Hayden, and one of the panelists during an afternoon question-and-answer session, said churches should be better trained in recognizing the problem rather than waiting to see if a member of the congregation offers the information voluntarily. It isn't the church's duty to judge what happens in the afterlife to suicide victims, but it should be the church's job to recognize someone in distress and help prevent it.

"We want to figure out where it started and nip it in the bud," he said.

Also important is acting quickly, the experts said. If a person suspects someone is having suicidal thoughts, make contact, don't wait a day. And don't assume suicide is reserved for a specific type of person either. It crosses all boundaries.

"Just because someone isn't mentally ill, doesn't mean they don't have serious problems," said Jeanna Paul, Crisis and Treatment Team clinical supervisor in Kootenai County.

Sen. John Goedde, a special guest at the seminar, lost a daughter to suicide.

It can be easy to dismiss suicide statistics as just numbers, he said, until it affects you directly.

"In 2004, one of those numbers was my daughter and every day that touches my heart," a choked-up Goedde told the crowd.

The issue won't go away unless people bring it from the shadows and shine a light on it, he said, and only way to do that is through education.

"The more people that know, the better off we'll be," he said.

Mike McCall, a social work student at Lewis-Clark State College, said the seminar put into perspective how important seemingly little acts of kindness, like caring and paying attention, can be for someone in a dark place.

At the same time McCall, who works with at risk youth outside of his studies, said he was surprised to learn Coeur d'Alene had the highest suicide rate in the state.

"I think if a lot of people knew that, it could create a lot of change," he said after the seminar. "I'm glad that it was a full room."

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  • rationaldiscussionplz posted at 9:27 pm on Wed, Nov 21, 2012.

    rationaldiscussionplz Posts: 266

    "How many victims reach the end of their rope because they are no longer considered important?"

    My goodness, Jill. Just how insensitive can you be, talking about people who commit suicide reaching the end of their rope?

  • Jill Heine posted at 6:14 pm on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    Jill Heine Posts: 408

    CaiusCosades and local res,
    no disrespect intended. However, needless death needs to be taken seriously. I doubt I would be invited to socialize in Miss Goedde's circle. Such is the nature of Coeur d'Alene's class system. It's who you know UNTIL your presence is taken for granted. How many families fail economically due to the area's employment focus? Pie-in-the-sky is offered, but only a select few get to eat. The $3.35/hr server might get some crumbs and a measly tip.

  • capnbutch posted at 7:04 am on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    capnbutch Posts: 729

    Some years back a woman named Gonzalez from UM, Missoula, did a study of the people of Burke Canyon north of Wallace. She was concerned that the microcosm had one of the highest suicide rates anywhere.

    Though no such study can ever give a full and precise explanation, her conclusion was that the deep canyon was too dark. She felt that this lack of light had something to do with the suicide rate.

    I like her approach as it looks for real causes rather than someone to blame. That approach might work here. Suicide is a big concern.

    This story above is a change for writer Tom Hasslinger; Tom usually takes his space to badmouth and even fib about Republicans. This seems like a positive change.

    If we can do our research and writing without predispositions, we always do better.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:19 am on Tue, Nov 20, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    NIC Student

    Well said.

    It is easier for our illustrious leaders to give to their wealthy developer friends than to create the JOBS, JOBS, JOBS that they had promised.

  • peanutbutter posted at 11:57 am on Mon, Nov 19, 2012.

    peanutbutter Posts: 96

    Jill Heine, you must've missed the sensitivity handouts when created, and to quote you...

    "Only the victim knows what the final straw was. Quite likely, they are no longer reaching out or speaking to anyone."

    So before you feel the need to be a beast to a stranger, or in general, listen to your own words.

    CaiusCosades, truly sorry for your and the family's loss and anyone who has ever lost someone to suicide.

  • local res posted at 10:54 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Jill where were you? you were a part of her community.

  • local res posted at 10:52 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Jill I recommend therapy for your anger.

  • local res posted at 10:50 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Deniles did you ever consider that tobacco usage maybe the results of depression.

  • local res posted at 10:46 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    local res Posts: 1164

    Voxpop your statement is showing your foolishness and ignorance.

  • CaiusCosades posted at 5:55 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    CaiusCosades Posts: 380

    What a totally classless thing to say. I hope you feel ashamed of yourself.

  • Jill Heine posted at 3:57 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    Jill Heine Posts: 408

    what's your point CaiusCosades?

    Where were you and your loving circle when she needed a friend?

  • CaiusCosades posted at 1:43 pm on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    CaiusCosades Posts: 380

    I went to the U of I with Melissa Goedde, she was apart our group of friends. She was truly a great person, a light, a bright and cheery and kind hearted person and a good friend to everyone. She just was all around a good person. We all lost a lot when she passed.

  • Jill Heine posted at 11:21 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    Jill Heine Posts: 408

    A few lucky ones will leave Coeur d'Alene and Idaho and survive. Suicide among American Indians skews the research. They have been disenfranchised as a people, dispossessed as citizens of the nation that dominated them. But what about the 'others' as Mahiun implies?

    Research needs to quantify and qualify the circumstances that lead up to what some consider the final solution to pain. Did the medical/psychological supports miss opportunity to resolve personal crisis? Did the ball get dropped on their watch?

    What about the state institutions that are tasked with preserving employees rights? Is the work place a safe, respectful environment? Are employees made 'whole' after on the job injury...or just pushed out the back door? Certainly this is the case in 'at will' Idaho!

    Was an attorney stepping up or even available to defend the rights of the injured employee? Did anyone advocate for retraining as an entire industry's workforce was dispossessed? This one falls specifically on CDA as leaders have pushed dirty industry out of the way for clean jobs in tourism and health support for the affluent.

    How many victims reach the end of their rope because they are no longer considered important? Suicide is a sad commentary on CDA, Idaho, and nation as a whole. The only reason suicide gets attention in this season...the lack of appropriate institutional and family support is keenly felt between Thanksgiving and New Years.

    The increase in attempts and successes may be attributed to seasonal-mood-disorder. But doesn't that affect us all equally as the nights get longer and colder? For the disenfranchised, regardless ethnicity. winter is especially troubling. Increased costs for basic needs like heating and food are sufficient stressors. Add on the marketed-compulsion to spend-spend-spend to satisfy the Christmas Spirit while the depressed know they cannot afford January's bill...and a tipping point is reached. Only the victim knows what the final straw was. Quite likely, they are no longer reaching out or speaking to anyone.

    Churches are a major joke and significant players with their promise of peace and good will to all men. Christmas is just another entry on the church calendar with great fanfare and resource expended to affirm 'tis the season'...to be jolly. Merely a yada, yada, yada for the successful.

    My advice for the troubled: Get out of Coeur d'Alene before you reach your tipping point. 10% unemployment in a tourist trap is oppressing. You could get retrained at NIC at your own expense, but will you get hired when your third or fourth career is in the health field and you are over 40? I love to cook and I'm good at it. There was no way that seasonal employment as a line cook would support my family. It's better to move south to a community with a lower cost of living even if you have to tough out the heat of summer. Better jobs are available in Phoenix with 6.9% unemployment.
    Coeur d'Alene boasts over 500 jobs needing to be filled. How many are with scalping temp agencies? How many are already filled? How many offer a wage that allows you to meet basic survival needs?

    Word of Wisdom: Direct the guilt at the face the mirror rather than throwing it at the deceased.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 11:05 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    OK, I see my post was taken down because I called the leaders of this country a name that isn't even a bad word.

    So let me try this.

    All moral fiber of our country has gone away. Our inept leaders, federal, state, county and city are to busy lining their own pockets to care if our children have to leave their homes and hometowns for greener pasture because the leaders here only pave the way for $3.35 per hour slave labor jobs.

    Some feel there is no other way except to end it since they feel so unwanted here unless they are a who's who.

  • DeNiles posted at 10:23 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    I checked and there is a lot more information. They just did not look or it was ignored. CdA does own the highest incidence of suicide and it is mostly a male adult issue. Judging on a county scale Kootenai is near the middle of the pack.

    Though any suicide is tragic the numbers are not huge relative to other types of preventible deaths. Of course I tend to focus on tobacco. Currently the incidence of underage smoking in Idaho's high schools is 65,000 times worse than Idaho's annual suicide rate for youths under the age of 24. Idaho's tobacco using kids may not be dead, but they are addicts for life and Idaho is extremely underfunded in this effort.

    Suicide is the worst final note of depression and managing depression is what we need to better with our youngsters.

  • Mahiun posted at 9:43 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    Mahiun Posts: 4958

    It's hard to tell if the article was badly written, or the victim of a really bad editing job --- but either way, it does a disservice to a very serious subject.

    Why, exactly, the Coeur d'Alene area has the highest rate in the state, research doesn't say.
    What does this mean? Does it mean that the research has been done, with inconclusive results, or (more likely) that there simply is no research into the question?

    That said, I have my own theories (and I hasten to add, they're only that: my own unscientific theories).... Coeur d'Alene -- Kootenai County, in general --- is a very very difficult place to be "other", however "other" may be defined by the locals. This area is not exactly known for its warm embrace of anyone who does not fit the norm, and I have to wonder if the suicide rate, especially among the young who may feel that they are trapped in a place and situation they can't cope with or escape, is related to that....

    I'm not saying that it is or it isn't. I'm just wondering......

    And I'd echo Niles's call for much more specific data. Is this a phenomenon only of youth, or does it cross age boundaries? Is it confined to winter months, is it perhaps a seasonal-mood-disorder thing? Women, in general, more frequently attempt suicide but men are usually successful when they do attempt it --- does that pattern hold up in the Coeur d'Alene area? This is really a pretty "fluffy" and superficial article on a decidedly NON-fluffy topic.

  • DeNiles posted at 7:29 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Poorly written article. Is it supposed to be about suicide in general or suicide among the youth specifically?

    Consider the top tier states. Wyoming is 1st, Alaska 2nd, then Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Idaho. Consider that suicide rates among Amerindians is 300% the national average. Maybe an answer, maybe not the answer. But clearly a factor.

    Yes, suicide is a serious problem. It deserves a serious article. This does not qualify. If CdA has the highest rate in Idaho would you kindly present the data so we can better understand the details of this tragedy. Y'know, the data... ages, gender, time of year, etc....

    If you can't do that then title the article properly: CdA is a BAD, BAD city and everyone should feel guilty.

  • voxpop posted at 6:30 am on Sun, Nov 18, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    "Why, exactly, the Coeur d'Alene area has the highest rate in the state, research doesn't say. "

    Then what good is research? Anyone can accumulate data. As is often said, if you're not part of the solution then you're part of the problem.

    Anecdotally, it all goes back to ambivalent parenting. Parents who have lost a child to suicide did not pay close enough attention. It's the first line of defense. If you're child kills themselves, or others for that matter, you - the parent - are at fault. Don't look for scapegoats or make excuses. There are none. You failed in your responsibility.

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