Chippewa County (WQOW)- Last year hundreds of Chippewa County callers picked up the phone and dialed a crisis center. That, coupled with a high number of suicides, has the county heading in a new direction; hoping to make a difference for those who feel they've run out of options.
"Suicide is something that people don't often want to talk about," relents Tim Easker, who manages Chippewa County's Children with Differing Abilities Division
But that's exactly what Chippewa County is doing: talking and trying to come up with a way to prevent suicides from happening.
"We are not therapists, but we have the information and experience on where to send people," Easker explains.
He wants to create a manual that teaches each department, like law enforcement for example, ways to deal with different situations when someone is pondering suicide.
"We're trying to follow another county's model," Easker reveals. "The beautiful part about this is engaging all the stakeholders: the hospitals, the schools."
That model belongs to La Crosse County. In Wisconsin, the annual average number of suicides per county is 11. But Chippewa County has often been above that number. In 2009, there were 14 suicides, 12 in 2010 and 10 in 2011. The county says the victims include an unusually high number of middle aged men.
"For 2012, there were eight through the month of July and we haven't actually gathered the full statistics yet for the rest of the year," says Melissa Christopherson, lead worker for the CWDA. "But just based on what we know, we are expecting them to again be in the teens; again being higher than the state average."
Northwest Connections operates a crisis hotline that serves Chippewa County. It received more than 800 calls in 2012. It's not clear why so many people seem to be struggling with thoughts of suicide, but the county believes the manual will help.
"There's a good chance that by educating as much of the community as we can about the topic of suicide and how to address it that it will decrease the numbers," Christopherson explains.
"This is going to bring everyone together on the same page and it's going to open up that dialogue," hopes Easker. "Because there are things that we don't think about in the county that somebody else might be seeing and they are saying this is really good, but what about this? And it's going to get us thinking about all those separate pieces."
Those who have tried to take their own life and family members who have lost loved ones to suicide will help put the manual together. The county hopes to begin distributing it to area schools and hospitals this summer.
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