Fixing our suicide epidemic requires talking about it

By W. Stewart Wilder, Idaho Statesman

Suicide is a major health crisis in Idaho and throughout the West. Suicides rates are significantly higher than in other areas of the United States for a number of reasons. These include the rural nature of the West, a significant lack of mental health access, funding and reimbursements, a culture of honor status (pull yourself up by the bootstraps), access to lethal means (firearms and medications), and stigma around suicide and mental illness that extends into our health care systems.

In response to an epidemic of suicide among our youths, veterans and other groups, we came to recognize that to fix it, we first have to talk about it — all of us, as a community, along with our community leaders. Thus began the annual community conferences on suicide.

On June 23, Boise State University will host the third annual Western States Conference on Suicide. Following the conference, on June 24, will be a day of training. As we have done in prior years, we will welcome our neighboring states as a Northwest Regional Conference of distinction: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Through the BSU conference we aim to provide updates about suicide prevention efforts and other measures. Participants will leave the conference with a better knowledge of how they affect prevention, what “Zero Suicide” means, models of success and resiliency, and how each of us can implement facets from the conference into our own lives and professions.

You are invited to join us. If you have lost a friend or loved one to suicide, if you provide care for others, if you work with those at risk, then you should attend. There is no cost with the exception of a small fee for lunch. You just have to register at www.wscos.org. You’ll also find more information about the conference.

Mental health care is the core of the body; the most advanced organ known to man, but we give it the least attention. If we were to support brain health the way we amp up cancer and other physical diseases with advocacy, fun runs and community supports, we could actually prevent these very diseases of the brain from occurring, because we would treat the brain and the entire body together.

Having lost our 17-year-old son, Cameron, to suicide in September 2013, we are advancing awareness, education, research and direction to treatment in a very dysfunctional system through LiveWilder Foundation and our many partners as a collaborative effort. Together we will reduce the incidence of suicide and improve the lives of everyone we can touch. Please support mental health and suicide prevention programs in your communities.

For more on what is underway in the West and here at home in Idaho to stop this epidemic of suicides — and to learn what you can do to stop suicides — join us at Boise State University next weekend.

W. Stewart Wilder is president, LiveWilder Foundation; president, Idaho Suicide Prevention Coalition; and member, Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention. livewilder.org, idahospc.org

BSU HOSTS SUICIDE CONFERENCE

Boise State University will host the third annual Western States Conference on Suicide on Friday at the Jordan ballroom. There is no cost with the exception of a small fee for lunch. Parking is provided. You must register by Wednesday at wscos.org, where you will also find additional details.