Suicide prevention panel held as week of awareness continues

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - National Suicide Prevention Week is continuing the conversation about a growing concern in the region.

Numbers show 192 South Dakotans died by suicide last year. That is the most-ever reported.

Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death among all South Dakotans and the second leading cause of death among people 15 to 34 years old.

The president of the Helpline Center moderated a suicide awareness panel in Sioux Falls on Thursday.

She said she sees a correlation between suicide and the rise in alcohol and drug abuse.

"I think using either one of those substances is kinda a coping mechanism for what they're struggling with in their life. Sometimes you just can't see the hope when you're using those substances, so that can lead to suicidal thoughts," Janet Kittams said. "I think our message this week has always been that there is hope, to let people know that are struggling that the Helpline Center is here for you, and there are people that care, and we can get you through this difficult time, so please reach out for help."

Anyone in need of help is encouraged to call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Services are available 24/7.