The recent death of actor Robin Williams has drawn attention to issues related to mental health and suicide across the nation. These issues are important in Western South Dakota and Wyoming, where suicide rates are among the highest in the country. In the Black Hills, paradoxically, we have a higher rate of suicide than the nation, but a lower rate of self-reported chronic depression, according to a needs assessment completed by Regional Health in 2013.
The suicide death rate for Regional Health's service area is 19.7 per 100,000 population, compared to 15.6 per 100,000 statewide and 11.6 per 100,000 nationally. (See the data on page 38 of the needs assessment.)
The rate of people who have experienced symptoms of chronic depression in the Regional Health service area is 21.2 percent compared to 26.5 percent nationally. (State-level data is not available for this category.) (See this data on pages 35-36 of the needs assessment.)
Certain demographic groups suffer higher rates of chronic depression in the Regional Health service area including:
- Women - 26.1 percent vs. 16.4 percent for men
- Adults ages 40-64 - 28 percent vs. 14.1 percent for those 18-39 and 20.8 percent for those 65 and older.
- Low-income - 36.1 percent vs. 14.9 percent for mid- and high-income.
- People of color - 40.4 percent vs. 17.4 percent for whites.
A similar breakdown is not available for suicide rates, but data does show that Native Americans in the area suffer a slightly higher rate of suicide than whites.
- Native Americans - 20.6 per 100,000 population
- Non-Hispanic whites - 18.4 per 100,000 population
The South Dakota Department of Health listed suicide as the state's ninth leading cause of death in 2012.
The CDC found a spike in suicide rates in South Dakota and Wyoming from 1999 to 2010.
In the Black Hills, a number of organizations, including the Front Porch Coalition, are working to raise awareness and provide help to those in need, including the survivors of suicide. A national Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255.