Editor's note: If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or have lost a loved one to suicide, contact any medical provider or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Services are available 24/7. Additional information, resources, and support are available at sdsuicideprevention.org.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota officials this week unveiled a five-year plan meant to combat a big rise in the number of suicides in the state.
The suicide prevention plan, released Wednesday, is the fruit of a joint effort between a broad array of state government departments and tribal representatives. South Dakota has seen about a 40% increase in completed suicides over the past decade. In 2017, there were 192 suicides in the state, the most ever in a year.
The state's plan includes several new aspects from previous plans, including involvement of the tribes, an emphasis on data collection as a way to better understand suicide in South Dakota and shape future plans, and an emphasis on community outreach and resource efforts.
“Suicide impacts nearly every part of our state, and we need to make sure we have a comprehensive plan to help communities tackle suicide head-on,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health. “We all have a role in preventing suicide, and as we implement the plan in the years ahead, we will need every community, school, healthcare organization, workplace, and individuals doing their part to help save lives.”
Improved data collection is one of three pillars in the state's 2020 priorities under the plan, said Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.
Under the plan, South Dakota will expand its use of the South Dakota Violent Death Reporting System (SD-VDRS) statewide. Currently it's only collecting data from Minnehaha and Pennington counties, home to the state's two largest cities. The data reporting systems means state and local officials will have a clearer picture of the the situation surrounding those who complete suicide in the state.
"It will help us understand factors such as impulsivity and prior mental health issues, the situation of a person's life before they die, were they under financial stress or relationship problems," she said.
The data collection will not only inform ongoing implementation of the state's prevention plan, it will help shape future prevention work.
"I’m pretty confident in five years, what we know about suicide in South Dakota will be much more robust and help us with our efforts," Malsam-Rysdon said.
South Dakota is not the only state in the region with concerns about the number of suicides among its residents. Both North Dakota and Minnesota have seen suicide numbers climb by double digit percentages in the last decade.
The plan was developed by the Departments of Health, Social Services, Tribal Relations, Education and Agriculture in partnership with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board -- a reflection of Gov. Kristi Noem's insistence the plan was a government priority, Malsam-Rysdon said. The plan formation process also include accepting public input, and included comments from 300 South Dakotans.
"Lots of the input we received was just grateful we were working on this and putting together a statewide plan, and that was good to hear," she said "A lot of interest out there, especially from the education community, which was good to see."