Hundreds attend Western States Conference on Suicide in Boise

By Stephanie Hale-Lopez, KIVI

Watch Segment HERE

Boise - Folks from all over the Pacific Northwest gathered in Boise Friday, June 23, to discuss a public health problem facing Idaho and its neighboring states, during the third annual Western States Conference on Suicide at Boise State University. 

The suicide rate is staggering in the American West -- and in Boise, nearly 300 attendees discussed mental health awareness, education and training related to suicide prevention.

"It's an opportunity, really, for the Pacific Northwest region to really collaborate together because we're all facing the same sort of issues in our states," said Stewart Wilder, event organizer and President of The Wilder Foundation.  

The goal of the conference is to help reduce the stigma of mental health issues and suicide. In Idaho alone, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 34. 

Guest speaker, Dr. David Sheehan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of South Florida's College of Medicine, has spent his entire career involved in psychiatric research. In the past, he says, people focused on suicide being related to depression and other psychological factors; but he found that many suicides don't have a psycho-social cause. 

"There are now being developed many specific, anti-suicidal medication treatments that can wipe out suicidality within 30 to 60 minutes," Sheehan said. "So there's an explosion as a result of this in the field of medical research -- trying to develop these treatments and save more people's lives." 

But above all else, organizers say they hope attendees walk away from the conference with information on how to make a difference in their own communities. 

"Having the opportunity to have conferences like this brings people together, but it also brings in other communities across the Pacific Northwest to be able to take these messages back and make a difference in their communities as well." 

To learn more about the Western States Conference on Suicide, click here