Valley health providers address mental health crisis during Suicide Prevention Week

It’s Suicide Prevention Week and there’s a major push in the Valley to help put an end to this, especially because so many families have been affected.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 8:12 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- It’s Suicide Prevention Week, and there’s a major push in the Valley to help end this, especially because so many families have been affected.

Mental health experts say the suicide rate across the country increased nearly 40% in the last two decades, and the pandemic also didn’t help. Our state’s suicide rate is above the national average by 36%. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 1,400 people died by suicide in 2019.

Dr. Tiffany Pankow with HonorHealth Family Medicine says the growing number of those affected are adolescents.

“I think adolescents are under a tremendous amount of stress. There’s many components that come into play with that. I think the stresses of the pandemic have affected our adolescents, I think social media can also have an impact on our adolescents,” she said.

She encourages parents to check in with their children and discuss mental health. Dr. Pankow said talking about suicide won’t cause it, but it opens up a dialogue with teens.

There are 29 HonorHealth clinics around the Valley. Their goal is to get each one staffed with a behavioral health clinician by the end of the year. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly half of people who died by suicide had received medical care.

“By having behavioral health specialists that are integrated right into our primary care clinic we make this kind of just part of your routine health, this can improve the access to care, it also helps to destigmatize coming forward and getting mental health care,” Dr. Pankow said.

According to the Teen Lifeline Suicide Prevention Hotline, they received 22,000 calls and 20,000 text messages from Arizona youth ages 10-19 in 2021.