Suicide rates in Kansas increase by nearly 50 percent


A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows the suicide rate soaring in Kansas and across the country as a whole.

Kansas Dept. of Aging and Disability Services Secretary Tim Keck said, “It’s imperative that we continue to make suicide prevention a top priority, by promoting public awareness of the issue, evaluating risk factors and encouraging appropriate treatments and interventions.”

The agency’s study finds the number of people who took their own life in 2016 was 45 percent higher than it was in 1999. From an average of 363 per year to 540 in 2016. That was the fifth highest increase in the nation. Every U.S. state, except Nevada, saw an increase in the number of suicides over that time and half of them saw a rise of more than 30 percent.

The five states that saw the largest increase were:

  1. 57.6% – North Dakota
  2. 48.6% – Vermont
  3. 48.3% – New Hampshire
  4. 46.5% – Utah
  5. 45.0% – Kansas

Besides South Carolina, the other states that saw the largest increases were Great Plains or Rocky Mountain states: Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

“Many of us have been personally impacted by this unfortunate reality,” Kansas Dept. of Health and Environment Chief Medical Officer Dr. Greg Lakin said. “It’s important that everyone, whether it’s a medical professional, family, friends or co-workers, take an active role in offering help before it’s too late.”

The issue extends far beyond people with mental health conditions, agency officials point out. Data from 27 states participating in the National Violent Death Reporting System show that more than half of them did not have any known conditions. Relationship problems was the leading circumstances contributing to those with or without mental health conditions who committed suicide, factoring into 42 percent of deaths, the CDC finds. A crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks and problems with substance abuse and played a role in 29 and 28 percent of suicides, respectively. Other causes included, a physical health problem (22%), job or financial woes (16%), legal problems (9%), or a loss of housing (4%).

With so many contributing factors, the KDHE provided a list of warning signs, including:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance abuse
  • Looking for ways to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die
  • Making plans for suicide

    For people concerned that loved ones could be at risk, the Kansas Suicide Prevention Center provides resources and training on how to support friends, families, and neighbors. They range from dealing with suicidal thoughts, plans, and actions to how to help someone after a suicide attempt.

    Assistance is also available via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for Kansas at 785-841-2345 or 800-273-8255. Free and confidential crisis counseling is available 24 hours a day seven days a week. Kansas Chat is also available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from Tuesday through Saturday. Lifeline Chat provides a 24/7 chat line and hotline as well.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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