Health professionals call suicide a public health issue.
The deaths of two high profile people are now leading others to reach out for help.
"Right now there is someone that we love, that we’re connected to, who is struggling," said Barry Johnson, Division Director of Rehabilitation and Advocacy Programs of the Transitions-Mental Health Association. "The data shows that."
In 2017, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office reported 49 deaths were the result of suicide. In the last week, the number of calls to the SLO Hotline has increased by 31 percent — 309 calls — from the same time last year.
Local mental health professionals say that is a positive step.
"An increase in calls during this time is less alarming and more something we find as a significantly positive that people are getting our number, they’re reaching out, and they’re talking about it," Johnson said.
More than twice as many people die by suicide than by homicide. Middle-aged people are disproportionately affected by suicide with the highest incidence of suicide in the 45-65-year-old age group in California, Johnson added.
California received a boost in mental health care with the voter-approved Mental Health Service Act in 2005. It expanded county mental health service systems.
Now, San Luis Obispo County is adding a suicide prevention coordinator.
"Their job will be to look at what resources are available in the community and connected and then find those blind spots, those gaps and look how we can go in and fill them," Johnson said.
But there is still plenty of work to be done.
"I think one thing we can improve on is understanding sustainable recovery, whether it’s drug or alcohol addiction or mental health, takes a community," said Coraline Robinson, Balance Treatment Center Director. "It’s not just about the individual, it’s about the family system, it’s about the school system, it’s about mental health treatment programs. How are we working to make access easy? Because someone who is dealing with a mental health crisis, that’s hard enough and accessing treatment should be easy."
There are resources available for you or someone you know struggling with suicidal thoughts. You can call the local hotline at 1-800-783-0607 or text the national text line at 741741.
The Suicide Is Preventable website provides an overview on how to know the signs, find the words, and reach out. Talking openly can save lives.