TOPEKA – (September 30, 2020) – The suicide rate among children in Kansas continued a disturbing trend in 2018 with a nearly 10 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report released today by the Kansas State Child Death Review Board.
Thirty-five Kansas youth died by suicide in 2018, up from 32 in 2017. The 2018 rate was five youth suicides per 100,000 population, continuing a troubling trend in the youth suicide rate over the past decade, which stood at just 1.1 per 100,000 population a decade ago. In 2018, suicide accounted for 31 percent of all child deaths from age 1 to 17 years excluding natural causes, up from a four-year average of 22 percent from 2014 to 2017.
“The sad news that our youth suicide rate continues to increase is another indication that Kansans must remain steadfast and resolute in our efforts to reduce the factors that lead a young person to end their life,” Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “I appreciate the dedicated work of the State Child Death Review Board in compiling this information to help inform policymakers and stakeholders in efforts to reverse this trend.”
In June 2018, Schmidt and the Tower Mental Health Foundation formed the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force to survey efforts underway in Kansas to reduce the incidence of youth suicide and provide recommendations on further steps that could be taken. In 2019, the Legislature created the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator to implement recommendations of the task force. Gina Meier-Hummel serves as the state’s first coordinator.
“This disturbing trend demands that all of us pay attention to the young people in our lives and those at risk in our community, especially those who right now may be extremely isolated,” Meier-Hummel said. “The pandemic in particular requires us to reach out to these youths in different ways than we have in the past, and to be diligent. The youth we have visited with who have some type of lived experience with suicide say, ‘we want to be seen, heard and loved,’ what an important message.”
The State Child Death Review Board’s just-released annual report analyzes all child deaths that occurred in calendar year 2018, the most recent year for which data is available. The overall child death rate in 2018 was 58.6 deaths per 100,000 population, an increase from what had been record-low rates reported the prior four years. The report showed that Kansas had 414 child fatalities in 2018, compared with 396 in 2017.
“The data provided by this report is critical to our understanding of child deaths in Kansas. More importantly, we know behind each of these statistics are stories of children lost, families who grieve, and communities impacted forever,” said Sara Hortenstine, the board’s executive director. “We have a responsibility to learn from each of these difficult circumstances and take action to prevent future deaths of Kansas children.”
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 at https://bit.ly/2Gl9ogv. A copy of the Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force report is also available at https://ag.ks.gov/ysptf.
If you or anyone you know are in need of crisis support, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator is located in the Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General and can be reached at 1-800-828-9475, or online at ag.ks.gov/victim-services.