Report: Kansas youth suicide rate increased by 50% in 2017

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KAKE) -

A recent report has revealed that the suicide rate among children in Kansas rose by 50% from 2016 to 2017. 

The Kansas State Child Death Review Board says 32 children under the age of 17 died by suicide in 2017. This number shows a significant increase from 2016 where 20 children were reported to have died by suicide.

“I appreciate the dedicated work of the State Child Death Review Board in compiling this information to help inform policymakers on steps to help prevent deaths of Kansas children,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “The continued rise in youth suicides depicted in the report is alarming, and the Legislature showed considerable foresight earlier this year in establishing a more-comprehensive state response.”

The Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed in June 2018, designed to oversee efforts in Kansas to reduce suicide among youth and provide recommendations on further steps to be taken. In May of 2019, Legislature adopted several of those recommendations and helped create the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator to carryout recommendations of the task force. Gina Meier-Hummel was appointed as the state's first coordinator in August. 

“Every time a child takes his or her own life it is heartbreaking, and this report underscores the need to collectively address the pain Kansas youth, families and communities are feeling,” Meier-Hummel said. “I take this responsibility very seriously and am encouraged by the early response from statewide partners about working together, streamlining our efforts and strengthening our overall response to youth suicide in Kansas.”

The report analyzed all child deaths that occurred in 2017 and revealed that although suicide among children had increased, the overall child death rate remained near record lows. The report showed Kansas had 396 child deaths in 2017, compared to 394 in the previous two years. 

“While it is promising to see that the overall death rates are decreasing for Kansas children, the number of youth suicides remain a concern,” said Sara Hortenstine, the board’s executive director. “The information provided within this report should continue to inform individuals, organizations, and the State of Kansas as a whole to continue prevention efforts surrounding child fatalities in our state.”

In addition to policy recommendations, the report includes prevention points that families can use to decrease the likelihood of a child’s death.

The board is a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency volunteer board organized by law within the Attorney General’s Office to examine trends and patterns that identify risk factors in the deaths of children, from birth through 17 years of age.

The report is available on the attorney general’s website here. A copy of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force report is also available here.

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