Suicide rates in Arizona, calls to 988 hotline both increase since last year

Sep 11, 2023, 4:35 AM

people hugging person in distress...

(AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

(AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

PHOENIX — As suicide rates are trending upward in Arizona, one company continues to spread awareness about available options for anyone experiencing a crisis.

The nationwide 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline launched in July 2022 with the intent to be easy to remember and to connect callers with trained mental health counselors.

Since the launch, calls (and texts) made to the hotline from people in Arizona have increased, Beth Brady, brand and development officer for Solari who was on the hotline for the state, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona Morning News on Friday.

Brady credits the heightened awareness about the 988 hotline for an increase in calls from Arizona but remains diligent in reaching out to communities that may not know about alternative options, such as the hotline.

“The awareness, the ease of use, that three-digit number, hopefully we can get that into everyone’s muscle memory so when they think of a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide, they immediately go to that just like we do for our physical health with 911,” Brady said.

It’s National Suicide Prevention Month – who’s most at risk?

Suicide is unequivocally a nondiscrimination issue and can affect anyone at any stage in life and any socioeconomic class, Brady said.

As one of the leading causes of death in the United States, suicide took the lives of at least 49,449 people last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In 2021, suicide rates were four times higher in males compared to females — a significant difference considering males make up about half of the country’s population but nearly 80% of suicides, according to the CDC.

Statistics have also recently shown a higher risk in older age groups, Brady said.

“Some of those reasons are sometimes your social network starts to dwindle away, maybe family has moved away, so that support isn’t there. Maybe there aren’t folks checking in on you,” Brady said.

She also said depression can affect those who have retired as jobs can often instill purpose into workers.

How can I help someone who is struggling?

The 988 hotline is a valuable resource tool for those having suicidal thoughts and for anyone looking to assist another person in need, Brady said.

“Our crisis specialist can give you specific tips based on the person that you’re worried about. We can even outreach that person if it makes sense,” Brady said.

However, despite a steady rise in bringing more awareness to suicide prevention and mental health challenges, there remains a lot of stigma around the topics, which could be preventing more calls, she said.

“As friends, family, coworkers, the most important thing you can do if you’re noticing something, ask the question, ‘Are you doing alright? Sounds like you’ve really been going through it,'” Brady said.

“Ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide, which is a really scary question that most people don’t want to ask, but it’s really critical to ask it, be ok with whatever the answer is, and then help that person find help.

“We don’t expect friends and families to immediately be a therapist and help the person, but it’s about asking the question and then listening without judgement.”

Some protective factors include support from partners, friends and family, feeling connected to others, strong sense of cultural identity and reasons for living.

There are various circumstances that can contribute to suicide risk, which include financial problems, serious illness, sense of hopelessness, social isolation, discrimination and substance use.

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Suicide rates in Arizona, calls to 988 hotline both increase since last year