Tag: statistics

What we learned from the #30Days30Stories project in 2022 

Thirty storytellers shared their stories of struggles with mental health and how they are finding resilience as part of Lost&Found’s 30 Days, 30 Stories project, which was part of National Suicide Prevention Month in September. Here, we reflect on what we learned from the project.

 

1. Finding storytellers was easier than it was in our first year, but challenges remain.

  • From staff members and partners in the mental health profession, we were able to come up with a list of more than 50 names of potential storytellers. “People are waiting to tell their stories; we just have to ask them to do so,” said L&F Community Engagement Manager Joel Kaskinen. “In our second year of this campaign, I found it easier to find people to share their stories, which tells me our communities are more open to sharing and the stigma around mental illness and suicide is decreasing.”
  • While getting stories, photos, and videos from about 20 storytellers from our list of potential storytellers was fairly straightforward, finding the last 10 was more difficult. Some potential storytellers didn’t feel it was the right time to tell their stories. Five people submitted stories, but we were unable to follow up to schedule photos with them. “Recruiting seemed rushed at the end,” said Prevention Programming Specialist Melissa Renes. “I would suggest offering the opportunity year-round and making it more normalized to share instead of requesting stories later in the year.”

 

2. We made improvements in recruiting stories that represent the diversity in our communities.

“I think the attempt to find diverse stories helped show that we were inclusive, and that mental health does not discriminate,” Renes said. “It put faces to the work we are doing.”

  • One significant improvement was telling more stories from the LGBTQIA2S+ community. More than 30 percent of storytellers indicated they are something other than heterosexual (including “prefer not to disclose”). This is important, because surveys (such as this one from the Trevor Project) indicate that LGBTQIA2S+ individuals are at higher risk for suicide. Telling these stories empowers the storytellers and helps to foster understanding empathy and understanding in the rest of society.
  • Our storyteller demographics in terms of race were not yet representative of the state as a whole or of the demographics of suicide in South Dakota. Native Americans make up 8.5 percent of South Dakota residents, and 20 percent of suicides in South Dakota (2012-21) were of Native Americans; just 1, or 3 percent, of our storytellers was Native. We had stories from three additional Native Americans but were unable to connect with them for photos and videos, which suggests we need to work on our process to accommodate people who might have difficulty traveling or taking off from work to meet us for a photo shoot. We hope to be able to connect with some or all of those storytellers for next year’s project.
  • We didn’t have as many stories as we’d hoped from people in our target age group. Sixty percent were in the target age group of 10-34. Forty percent of our storytellers were 35 to 54. We definitely value stories of resilience from people of any age, but it would be nice to have more stories from people who are in our target demographic.
  • While we improved in our gender balance from last year, 70 percent of our storytellers were women. “Young women are the most willing to share their stories,” Kaskinen said. “Women aged 10-34 was also the demographic that we reached most through social media.” We will continue to work to break through the limiting “tough guy” stereotype that men can’t talk about their mental health.

 

3. Storytellers gave a wide variety of resources that helped them find resilience.

“The resources showcased emphasized that when looking at recovery and maintaining positive mental health, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Renes said. The categories of resources suggested were professional mental health care (31 percent), family and friends (20 percent), other strategies (20 percent), support groups (14 percent), educational resources (10 percent) and crisis resources (4 percent). (Most storytellers cited more than one resource.)

  • Storytellers cited professional mental health care (in a variety of forms) most often when they listed resources that had helped them. While it’s wonderful that people have found help through professional services, this makes it that much more important to try to get more people into the mental health profession. There are not enough people to meet the need currently.

 

4. Storytellers shared a message of hope: It is possible to improve mental health.

  • The path from a dark place to a better place varies greatly from person to person, but it often starts with communication. This communication can come from person struggling: Speaking up about what is going on with them, connecting with a resource, or asking for help. But storytellers often welcomed the care of a friend or family member to start the conversation, and they wished more people had voiced their care and concern. “A theme I noticed throughout stories was that people wished more had talked to them, or they would have liked to know more resources were there,” Renes said.

 

The project had an impressive 183,455 impressions across all media! Here are some additional statistics on the reach of the project through the web, social media, and the Great Minds with Lost&Found podcast:

 

This image lists website, social media, and podcast statistics for the 30 Days, 30 Stories campaign, including for the website, podcasts, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. The most impressive stat is total impressions across all media: 183,455.

 

Record number of South Dakotans died by suicide in 2021

Suicides in South Dakota increased to a record level last year, according to provisional data released by the South Dakota Department of Health in April.

In 2021, 198 South Dakotans died by suicide. This is higher than in 2019 and 2020, which each had 185 suicides, and is the highest ever recorded in the state.

Provisional Suicide Data, South Dakota (2020-2021)

Provisional Suicide Data, South Dakota (2020-2021)

 

The finalized death data from 2020 show several significant problems for South Dakota:

  • South Dakota had the 8th highest suicide rate in the United States in 2020.
  • Four South Dakota counties rank in the top 1% highest suicide rates in the U.S. (2010-2019).
  • American Indian suicide rates are 2.5 times higher than White race rates in South Dakota (2011-2020).
  • In 2020, suicide was the leading cause of death among those ages 10-19 and the second-leading cause of death among those ages 20-29.

“The particularly strong impact on youth and young adults is concerning for the future of our state,” said Erik Muckey, CEO and Executive Director of Lost&Found.

 

Pandemic-related increase

The timing of the increase—with more suicides in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021—suggest that the increase is at least in part related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we continue to analyze underlying factors for this record, we know that the pandemic impeded many of the protective factors against suicide while increasing certain risk factors for suicide,” Muckey said.

These are some of the protective factors that prevent suicide that were affected by the pandemic: 

  • Access to mental health care – Many people who had been seeing a mental health professional were not able to continue that care in person when social distancing was practiced. (Meeting through video conferencing allowed care to continue in many cases.)
  • Connectedness to others – Social distancing made connecting with others more difficult. Connecting through technology helped but wasn’t quite the same and left out people without access to or knowledge of that technology.
  • Sense of purpose in life – Layoffs and school closings may have diminished the sense of purpose for some people.
  • Talking about mental health – Mental health concerns may have been more difficult to discuss when not face to face with another person.

The pandemic also increased some of the risk factors that increase the risk of suicide: 

  • Substance use disorders – For those struggling with a substance use disorder, staying home more often when work and other places were closed may have increased substance use.
  • Family dysfunction – People who otherwise might have left home for work or school were less likely to do so during the pandemic, which may have exacerbated fraught family dynamics.
  • Endured prolonged stress or a traumatic event – Because of the pandemic, more people were dealing with illness and death of a loved one. Prolonged social isolation can also be damaging to mental health.

Just because suicides increased during the pandemic does not mean, unfortunately, that the end of the pandemic (whenever that is) will result in lower suicide rates. Research suggests that the mental health effects of the pandemic will last beyond the reduction of physical illness in society, especially for those more closely and seriously affected by Covid-19. Pandemic-related poorer mental health and increased risk of suicide is likely to exist for some time to come.

 

Comprehensive strategy

We can, however, learn from this moment. The pandemic has shown what happens when much of society sees a reduction in the protective factors that can prevent suicide, and an increase in the factors that can increase risk of suicide. Enacting policies and programs that protect people from suicide and reduce the risk of suicide—especially for those most at risk—can save lives.

Since the factors that lead to suicide come from all levels of society—within individuals, but also in relationships, in communities, and in society as a whole—suicide prevention requires a systemic approach. Lost&Found is one organization out of many working on suicide prevention, but more people, organizations, schools, and workplaces need to get involved in the work of building up protective factors and reducing risk factors.

“The more comprehensive our suicide prevention efforts become, the more effective they will be,” Muckey said. “That is absolutely essential to saving lives.”

 

Learn more about protective and risk factors in Lost&Found’s Let’s Talk About Mental Health guide, which can be downloaded here. Learn more about getting involved with Lost&Found’s suicide prevention efforts here.