For Gov. Mark Gordon, the new statewide suicide prevention hotline is personal.
A young man he coached in soccer struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts called him and told him that it was important for someone on the other end of the line to know Wyoming and its people, Gordon said Tuesday at the Central Wyoming Counseling Center.
The hotline will have people to receive calls who understands the state, the circumstances, the community and resources, he said.
The coronavirus has aggravated mental health issues as people practice social distancing to reduce the spread of the disease, Gordon said. “Sadly, sadly, … it falls on the individual who is trying to cope and having a difficult time saying … ‘I’ve just reached the end of my rope.'”
In 2017, the most recent year for this data, suicide was Wyoming’s seventh-leading cause of death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For every 100,000 Wyoming residents, about 25 took their own lives in 2018, according to the CDC. At the time, that was the highest rate in the nation.
The suicide hotline is probably the only new state program as the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with a collapsed oil market, will slaughter the budget for the next biennium.
Gordon and Wyoming Health Department Director Mike Ceballos asked for and received from the Legislature the $200,000 a year grant to start the part-time hotline that initially will operate at 40 hours a week with three employees in a dedicated room at the Central Wyoming Counseling Center, the center’s CEO Kevin Hazucha said.
“Our ultimate goal is to have this up and running 24/7,” Hazucha said. “Given what the state economy is and what a bind everybody’s in, I’m really grateful we got this from the state.”
The center will look for other funding, and will work with the National Suicide Lifeline Prevention to add more shifts, he said.
To be fully operational would require about $600,000, Hazucha said.
In a statement last week, CWCC Suicide Prevention Lifeline Director Bernice Hazucha said, “By having this resource here, we’re going to be able to relate to our callers better, and we’ll be better equipped to connect them to the resources they need to successfully get through whatever trauma they’re facing.”
The hotline opens at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The number is (307) 776-0610.