Suicide prevention in Rapid City is an everyday struggle

Updated: Sep. 16, 2022 at 7:00 AM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - September marks National Suicide Prevention month, and as South Dakota ranks 10th highest in the nation for suicide rates, suicide prevention centers across the state have plans on how to hopefully lower those statistics.

“For us every month is suicide prevention month,” Bill Elger, prevention coordinator for Western Resource Prevention Center, said. “We focus primarily on two fundamental prevention program tracks. First being suicide, mental health and the other would be substance abuse.”

Western Prevention Resource Center focuses on providing prevention resources for children and adults in Rapid City.

“I provide training, consultations, technical support, primarily to state funded community coalitions that are doing prevention work on this side of the state. We also work very closely with the schools and other community groups to serve both adult and youth populations,” Elger explained.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for 10– to 19-year-olds, and the second leading cause of death among adults aged 20-39. Western Resource Prevention Center strives to alleviate those numbers by implementing these programs into the community.

“Ultimately, the idea is to connect the people who are in need with the support and resources they need to avert a crisis,” said Elger.

Western Prevention Resource Center hopes to reach the community, starting at a young age, implementing these programs into schools.

“The schools is one of our primary audiences where we deliver various, evidence based suicide prevention programs. Youth mental health, first aid, teen mental health, first aid, QPR which is question, persuade and refer. Assist is another suicide prevention that we coordinate, facilitate that program in schools,” Elger said.

By having access to these programs, WPRC has reached a wider audience, and despite stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, they believe these programs have had a positive impact on the community.

“We have extensive programming, supportive services that are available through the state. That said, there’s always a lot of additional work that can be done,” remarked Elger.

By implementing these programs, WPRC hopes to increase the number of people that are aware of a crisis and can spring into action when they themselves or someone they know need help. “I think we have growing base of folks that are able to identify folks that are in crisis, " says Elger.