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A Community Problem



As indicated in your Dec. 8 online article ("Humboldt Hits Grim Mark"), suicide is a serious public health problem. It causes immense pain and suffering to individuals and families in our community. As Humboldt County's public health director, I know the causes of suicide are complex and include factors such as mental illness, substance abuse, loss, exposure to violence and social isolation.

The problem is disproportionately acute in eastern Humboldt County, where tribal leaders reported at least six suicides in one village over the last eight months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that young American Indian and Alaskan Native men are more than twice as likely as other groups to die from suicide.

Researchers attribute high suicide rates in rural areas to greater access to firearms, high rates of drug and alcohol use and fewer health care providers and emergency medical facilities — a "lethal triad," according to researcher Julie Goldstein Grumet.

But help is available. The DHHS Prevention and Early Intervention program offers trainings to help residents identify warning signs of suicide, access resources and talk to friends, family members and clients about suicide. These trainings are important because most people considering suicide won't seek help on their own.

Other solutions include restricting access to lethal means by educating the public about safe storage of firearms and medication, and distributing gun locks and other safety devices.

Suicide is a community problem. Preventing suicide and building an effective safety net will require community solutions. Residents are invited to join the Suicide Prevention Network: the next meeting is Feb. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m., at the Community Wellness Center located at 908 Seventh St. in Eureka. For more information, call 707-441-5551.

If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Susan Buckley, Eureka

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