If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and National Recovery Month. The two are clearly linked as deaths from overdoses and suicide are both referred to as “deaths of despair.” Providing mental health access prior to a suicide attempt or a substance addiction is a part of the solution that cannot be ignored.

As a medical examiner, I work closely with law enforcement to investigate deaths and speak with families who have been impacted by the death of their loved one. I have responded to suicide deaths, as well as overdoses or withdrawals over my many years as an EMT. These deaths are preventable, and we can do more to reach people who are struggling.

Between 2009 and 2013, the suicide rates of Burnett, Polk, St. Croix, and Pierce counties were all higher than our statewide average. Northwestern Wisconsin also has high rates of drug and alcohol abuse. Burnett County ranks 7th in the state for the rate of alcohol-related deaths and Polk county ranks 13th. Alcoholism and drug addiction are both mental health conditions that can be prevented, treated, and recovered from.

We know what works; improving community preventive services, enhancing mental health treatment, and strengthening research and evaluation of our existing programs. We need more resources for people experiencing mental health crises in Northwestern Wisconsin, which is why last year I worked across the aisle to create a network of prevention and support- not just hospitalization. We need a holistic approach that can reach every person in need before it’s too late.

During the month of September, commit yourself to preventing suicide, advancing recovery, and preventing mental health crises. Visit RecoveryMonth.org to find resources and support for those seeking recovery, and check out preventsuicidewi.org to learn more about suicide prevention.

State Senator Patty Schachtner represents Wisconsin’s tenth senate district. The district covers parts of Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties.


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