Rising suicide rate prompts new efforts to address mental health concerns

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Lawmakers met at the Kansas State Capitol Tuesday to discuss new efforts to address the rising suicide rate and mental health concerns in the state. Suicide and mental health have become a more prevalent issue in recent years.

Mental health advocates in the state are also seeing increasing struggles during the pandemic.

“The isolation alone leads to greater levels of anxiety, of depression, of suicidal thoughts,” said Jolee Eckert, Director of Clinical Services for Florence Crittenton Clinic in Topeka. “I used to get about 8-12 referrals a month for outpatient therapy, and now on average in a month, I get 30-40 referrals.” 

According to Kansas Health Institute’s latest analysis, suicide rates in Kansas were nearly 1.5 times higher in 2015-2019 than in 2000-2004 (18.1 compared to 12.5 per 100,000). The suicide rate in 2019 was the 16th highest in the country with a significant increase in Rural and Frontier counties.

Eckert said the latest addition to their organization is their Stress Management Clinic, where people can take assessments, practice mindfulness and meditation, and seek counseling. The organization also provides a free community wellness program, called “Heat Up Topeka” to help clients and people in the community unwind. They offer a variety of fitness lessons, including yoga classes, dance fitness classes, and total body sculpting.

Lisa Bassett, a Fitness Coordinator for the clinic said it’s something that’s helped many people through tough times.

“We’ve had people go through a lot of stressors like losing a family member, and just coming here and forgetting about that during their workout has helped tremendously,” Bassett said.

During the state’s Mental Health Modernization and Reform committee meeting Tuesday, lawmakers discussed beefing up suicide prevention efforts, breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health, and expanding resources, especially in vulnerable communities.

To watch the full meeting, click here.

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