COEUR d’ALENE — From 2013 to 2017, more than 1,730 Idahoans died by suicide.
A firearm was used in 61 percent of those deaths.
In that time, 110 school-age children died by suicide, 25 of whom were 14 or younger. From 2012 to 2016, about 7,100 adults 18 and older attempted suicide in Idaho, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Idaho is usually among the states with the highest suicide rates. In 2016, the United States experienced nearly 45,000 suicide deaths, averaging one suicide every 12 minutes. That same year, Idaho had the eighth-highest suicide rate, nearly 21 percent higher than the national average. It's the second leading cause of death for Idahoans ages 15 to 34 and for males up to age 44.
"Obviously, our area has been affected pretty greatly by suicide in the last few years," Panhandle Health District public information officer Katherine Hoyer said Monday. "We really just want to create a space where people can come and be surrounded by others who are supportive."
That space will be provided Saturday during the 11th annual Suicide Prevention Action Network of North Idaho's Break the Silence 5K walk for suicide prevention and awareness. The walk is held to remember those lost to suicide, raise awareness of this public health issue, and promote local mental health resources.
In a letter to The Press, Panhandle Health District Director and Suicide Prevention Action Network of North Idaho Chairwoman Lora Whalen commended the community for the commitment and emphasis that has been put toward making suicide prevention a priority.
"Per Kootenai County coroner data, in the first six months of 2019 there were 26 percent fewer suicides in Kootenai County as compared to the first six months of 2018," she wrote. "For the panhandle in the first six months, we have an almost 11 percent decrease from 2018 to 2019."
Members of SPAN of North Idaho have been busy in the community attending events and encouraging others in the roles they play in suicide prevention.
"You may have picked up a free gun lock while visiting our booth at a local gun show, maybe you scored some ‘stop the stigma’ wristbands at our table at the North Idaho Fair, or if you were really lucky you won the gun safe we had as a giveaway at the National Night Out event," she wrote. "Maybe you took your commitment a step further and decided to take a free QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) course we offer for groups.
"Suicide is complicated and complex, it does not happen for only one reason. I encourage you to become involved in the variety of groups and events that are in our community."
The Break the Silence 5K Walk opens in Riverstone Park, 1805 Tilford Lane, Coeur d'Alene, with on-site registration and pre-registered check-in from 8:30 to 9:35 a.m. Local music and the opening ceremony will follow with the walk at 10 a.m. Music and mental health wellness and crisis resource tables will continue through 12:30 p.m.
"It's nice for people who attend," Hoyer said. "They can go around and chat with these folks and see what resources are available in the community."
Whalen will read a proclamation declaring Sept. 14, 2019 as Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, Hoyer said.
Last year, 600 people participated in the walk. Registration is free or $30 with a 2019 Break the Silence T-shirt with the new SPAN of North Idaho logo.
"It's about raising awareness and preventing as many suicides as possible," Hoyer said.
Upcoming health and awareness events:
• North Idaho Suicide Prevention Summit: Oct. 3. Learn more on the best practices in suicide prevention from North Idaho College, Panhandle Health District, SPAN of North Idaho and the Region 1 Behavioral Health Board. Seating is limited, register early. Registration will soon be live on EventBrite: nisuicide preventionsummit.eventbrite.com
• North Idaho Rx Opioid Solution Symposium: October 10. Open to all community members interested in collaborating to reduce opioid misuse and overdose. The day is broken into three sessions geared toward different populations. Register: PRxOSsymposium2019.eventbrite.com
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255