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Nevada’s suicide crisis: Emergency crews join forces with prevention network

Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service

The term is “suicidal ideation.” It means thinking about suicide.

The phrase turns up frequently in calls for service to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts.

The details are heartbreaking:

• Attempted suicide, drug overdose, 42-year-old female, severely depressed lately, pills;

• Suicidal ideation, 31-year-old female, foreign body ingestion (nails and razor blades);

• Suicidal ideation, 22-year-old male, consumption of approximately 20 Paxil, attempted to shoot himself with a gun, had consumed three glasses of wine and became depressed;

• Suicidal ideation, 57-year-old male having thoughts about hurting himself due to continuous domestic family issues.

These are among the 208 suicide-related calls into East Fork Fire Department last year. Capt. Terry Taylor wants to make it stop.

He’s joined up with the Suicide Prevention Network of Douglas County in a public education program to raise awareness of the problem mental health officials say has reached epidemic proportions.

What Taylor sees is the effect respon-ding to these calls has on families, first responders and, eventually, the taxpayers of Douglas County.

In 2000, East Fork answered 15 suicide-related calls out of a total of 1,852 calls for emergency medical services. Last year, there were 208 suicide-related calls out of 3,068 calls for service.

The numbers can’t even be attributed to population increase as there are only 6,500 more residents in 2009 than there were in 2000.

Taylor estimates a conservative financial cost at $200,000 in ambulance fees with only $38,893.31 recovered.

Along with Suicide Prevention Network Executive Director Debbie Posnien, Taylor presented the grim statistics to his fellow firefighters and paramedics. The result was that nine of the departments donated $500 each to help keep the Suicide Prevention Network operating.

Recently, Posnien was notified of a $48,000 grant from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that will be shared with Lyon County and Carson City.

She’s been volunteering her services for almost a year after the agency ran out of money because she wanted to keep the momentum going.

“We can reduce the number of calls through prevention,” Taylor said. “It will never stop, but through community awareness, we can educate people – they have the opportunity to make a different decision.”