suicide

Fresno County Behavioral Health Department

 

In June, 17 people in Fresno County died by suicide, a number that the Fresno County Behavioral Health Department revealed is the highest of any month since at least 2017. It’s made all the more stark by the fact that early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, suicides had dropped significantly.

Jason Pohl / Sacramento Bee

Since 2014, Kern County sheriffs have been putting more inmates into isolating suicide watch cells. The effort is to reduce suicide risk, but it hasn’t helped.

Instead, deaths by suicide have risen, although these deaths did not happen to inmates who were in suicide watch jails. Those who have died by suicide were not identified as having a suicide risk.

Kerry Klein / Valley Public Radio

Ellen Eggert stands at the front of a Tehachapi auditorium in a tie-dyed t-shirt, sweatshirt tied around her waist, salt and pepper hair loose at her shoulders. “First of all I want to thank all of you brave souls who came here tonight,” she says. Then she stops mid-sentence and reaches down to take her shoes off. “I’m sorry, my feet are sweaty, do you mind?” Audience members giggle as she throws them behind her.

On this week’s Valley Edition: September is National Suicide Prevention Month. We bring you the story of one Kern County woman who says helping someone in need could be as simple as asking questions. 

 

We also tell you about the 30th annual Reel Pride Film Festival coming up next week. It’s the sixth-longest-running LGBTQ film festival in the country.

 

And we meet a man whose street photography helps him cope with cancer.

Listen to those stories and more on the podcast above.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

These days, Crystal Giles negotiates dinner options for her two kids alone. There’s Talon, her four-year-old son, and Riley, her eight-year-old daughter.

 

Giles moves a plate of burritos out of the microwave for Talon, and eventually settles on pizza rolls for Riley.

 

“That is way too many pizza rolls, little girl,” Giles tells her as Riley pours them out of a bag from the freezer.

Riley responds, “That’s how much daddy would eat.”

 

This week on Valley Edition: We hear from the widow of a police officer who took his life last year. Now, she’s telling his story to bring attention to a leading cause of death among law enforcement.

Plus: We talk to a grandmother and a grandson - she’s 83, he’s 19 - about their takes on life, love and aging. They're part of our new occasional series, Over 80, Under 20.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Two weeks ago, Fresno County published its suicide prevention strategic plan. The county has been developing this plan for almost two years. During that time, its rate of suicide matched the state’s at about 10 deaths for every 100,000 people, but it wants to bring that number below the state average. Lately, though Fresno isn’t the only county looking at how to reduce the risk of suicide.

 

California Endowment

New data from an on-going study about mortality rates in Central California reveals that alcohol, drugs and suicide are fueling significant increases in the mortality rate among white residents. The data are staggering: deaths from accidental drug poisoning in Fresno County are up over 200 percent since 1990, while suicides by hanging and strangulation are up over 120 percent in the region.

Virginia Commonwealth University, The California Endowment

Last year, U.S. life expectancy fell for the first time in over 20 years. At the same time, new data from four valley counties show that the death rate has increased particularly among whites. 

Over the last 20 years, the death rates among communities of color in the San Joaquin Valley have fallen. But at the same time, white death rates have notably increased, particularly for adults aged 40-64. Dr. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University says opioid use is only partially to blame.

Following recent high-profile suicides in Bakersfield and Fresno, many in the community are asking questions about how the community and the media should deal with the issue. In Bakersfield local community LGBT activist and CSUB student Jai Bornstein took her own life, as did newly-elected city councilmember Jeff Tcak. In Fresno County, three Clovis West High School students have taken their own lives in the last six months.

Carmen Vargas

Every year in America, around 42,000 people kill themselves. Suicide is the second most common non-illness related cause of death, but prevention advocates say the issue remains hidden and stigmatized. Recently, a series of high-profile events have recently brought suicide into the spotlight in the Central Valley. Many suicide advocates are now saying that the key to prevention is talking about it.

Three Clovis West High School students, a newly elected Bakersfield City Councilmember, and a Bakersfield LGBT activist all have taken their own lives in the last six months.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the spike in the international trend of farmer suicides, fracking legislation and Central California political races. 

America’s farmers are dying. But it’s not just because they’re aging. In 1978 the average age of the American farmer was 50, today it’s around 58. But there’s another even more troubling issue facing those who grow our food -  farmers taking their own lives.