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SLO County suicide prevention coordinator working to educate, bring awareness to suicide

Posted at 5:56 PM, Sep 27, 2018

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and it might come as a shock, but a report detailing statistics from 2014-2016 from the California Department of Public Health found San Luis Obispo County actually had a higher suicide rate per 100,000 people compared to San Francisco County.

Of course, the populations vary. During the study, San Luis Obispo County had a population size of 276,844 and San Francisco was at 863,108.

According to the findings, per every 100,000 people in SLO County, there were 17.2 suicides. In San Francisco, that number was 9.8.  SLO County is taking a closer look at why this is.

“That’s why we really want to look at different aspects of the community to see how different trainings, different outreach, education strategies can really help that,” said Alysia Hendry, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health.

She was hired by the county in July of this year. She says the county decided to create this position in partnership with Transitions Mental Health Association to “address the need for a coordinated effort to achieve state-mandated suicide prevention efforts in schools, government, and community outreach.”

Instead of several county-wide organizations following their own protocol, Hendry is now the liaison managing the strategy for suicide prevention and education.

“My job is making sure that there are a lot of different organizations focusing on different aspects of that,” Hendry said. “So whether it be prevention, early intervention, the coping after a suicide.”

That includes reaching out to schools and working with public safety organizations to make sure their officers are trained in mental health first-aid.

Hendry says there is no one reason why suicide happens but that the highest rate tends to be among adults 65 years and older. In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, those numbers vary.

The following rates of suicides for SLO County were provided by SLO County Behavioral Health:

2016-2018 San Luis Obispo County suicide rates, provided by SLO County Department of Behavioral Health
2016-2018 San Luis Obispo County suicide rates, provided by SLO County Department of Behavioral Health

The following rates of suicides for Santa Barbara County were provided by the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Office:

Coraline Robinson, Program Director for Balance Treatment Center, says recognizing the signs can be life-saving for you or a loved one.

“Educating ourselves on how to recognize signs is critical,” Robins said. “And then definitely giving people the time to talk about it, to recognize it and to guide them towards treatment.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please see the multiple resources linked below:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

SLO Suicide Hotline: 800-783-0607

Balance Treatment Center

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Transitions Mental Health Association

211 Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County Department of Behavioral Wellness 24/7 Access Line: 888-868-1649