BOISE, Idaho — Idaho is working to reduce suicides in the state with a new $1 million program.

To celebrate the ongoing efforts, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter on Thursday declared this week Suicide Prevention Week in the city, The Spokesman-Review reported (http://bit.ly/2cf2cAO ).

“I think they played important roles in public awareness,” said Kim Kane, director of the new state Office of Suicide Prevention.

Lawmakers this year allocated ongoing funding and changed the law that governs the mission of the state Department of Health and Welfare to specifically include suicide prevention.

Idaho’s suicide rate has long been above the national average, peaking as the ninth highest rate in the country in 2014, the most recent year for which figures were available, when the rate was 46 percent higher than the national average. A total of 320 residents died by suicide that year.

Montana had the nation’s highest suicide rate in 2014, followed by Alaska.

“The stats in Idaho are alarming,” said Nate Fisher, executive director of the Idaho Suicide Prevention Coalition.

In 2015, 1 in 5 Idaho youths attending public schools reported seriously considering suicide, and 9.8 percent said they’d made at least one suicide attempt.

Kane said Idaho’s rates may be higher due to a lack of behavioral health services, a culture of individualism and issues relating to the storage of firearms.

“Those three things come together to make a problematic combination for Idaho and other mountain states that share the same problem,” she said.

The new state office is focused on providing 60 percent of the funding needed to continue operating the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline 24/7, providing prevention programs to youth in Idaho schools and on creating a public awareness campaign.

“I think we’re really making a commitment,” Kane said. “It requires a comprehensive approach – it’s difficult. This gives us our first real opportunity to begin that chapter.”


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com