County recognizes the importance of suicide prevention

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Typically in a six-month period, Suicide Prevention of Yolo County receives around 3,000 calls from individuals in crisis via its 24-hour hotline, according to executive director, Diane Sommers.

Since 1966, the nonprofit’s specially trained volunteers have provided immediate telephone support to individuals in severe psychological distress.

But 2020 has been different.

In the last six months, volunteers have received close to 4,600 calls, Sommers told the Yolo County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday, and more related to the COVID-19 pandemic than any other regional suicide prevention center in California.

“People are really impacted by it,” she said. “(We’re) really hearing how COVID-19 is affecting people with deeper feelings of depression, loneliness and anger. I don’t think any of us could imagine that this virus would have such a dramatic life-changing effect.”

Given the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of so many county residents, Sommers urged everyone to “stay informed and follow the state and county guidelines that are necessary to really reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Sommers was speaking to county supervisors on Sept. 29 during the board’s recognition of September as National Suicide Prevention Month — a presentation that came just a week after the suicide of a Woodland teen that has devastated members of that community.

In presenting the resolution, Supervisor Oscar Villegas of West Sacramento noted that, “suicide prevention could not be more important to our community than it is right at this exact moment, for all the reasons we all know.”

The resolution recognized the work of Suicide Prevention of Yolo County, including not only its 24-hour, seven-days-a-week crisis line, but also the 24-hour ASK crisis line for adolescents and the SOS — Signs of Suicide education and prevention program that volunteers bring into local junior highs and high schools throughout the county.

“Even prior to the current crisis, Suicide Prevention was reaching out in many different creative ways to students in the schools, particularly in the Davis schools,” Supervisor Jim Provenza noted.

“So your ability to have those ongoing contacts puts Suicide Prevention in a particularly good position to be able to respond to the current crisis,” he told Sommers.

“We’re all very concerned about the impacts of COVID-19 and as we go to a phased reopening of schools, you can be very much a part of that.”

Sommers said the agency is “still trying to reach out as much as possible to students.”

In the wake of the recent teen suicide, Suicide Prevention was setting up an on-site intervention with students and parents impacted by that death, Sommers said.

A Woodland business offered use of a large meeting room, she told county supervisors, “so that we can do some social distancing as well as have safety measures for my staff that will be presenting.”

Her staff includes more than 40 volunteers who answer calls around the clock at the call center, where safety precautions have been put in place, but those volunteers are nonetheless “putting themselves at risk… (because) we do want to always be there for anyone in need,” she said.

Provenza and Supervisor Don Saylor of Davis both urged county residents who can to support Suicide Prevention of Yolo County by volunteering for or donating to the non-profit.

Learn how to do both at www.suicidepreventionyolocounty.org

Confidential telephone counseling and referral information is available any time, day or night, by trained crisis volunteers through Suicide Prevention of Yolo County. From Davis/Winters, call 530-756-5000 or toll-free 888-233-0228. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK.

The Allied Services for Kids teen line also provides 24-hour help to teens and families in crisis. “Whatever the problem, teens are welcome to call this confidential crisis line for support,” Suicide Prevention’s website notes. From Davis/Winters, call 530-753-0797.

Help can also be found via text. The Crisis Text Line is available 24 hours a day. Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

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