The suicide rate in the Coachella Valley exceeds the county, state and national suicide rate, according to a community needs report commissioned by the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation.
“We asked the community to react to the data and to tell us, 'What are your priorities?'” said Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, CEO, Desert Healthcare District.
Per the report, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationally: In the U.S., there are 14.6 suicide deaths per 100,000 individuals. California comes in a little lower at 11.0 deaths by suicide per 100,000.
The report shows there are roughly 19.4 suicides for every 100,000 people in the Coachella Valley.
The figure below illustrates the number of suicides per 100,000 people for individual Coachella Valley cities/CDPs. Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs have the highest rates while Bermuda Dunes, La Quinta and Indio have the lowest.
Dr. Bárzaga says the data has made it clear: mental health resources need to be a priority. “It’s going to be important that we arm ourselves with resources to address this looming crisis," he said.
He says the district plans to partner with community organizations that can offer help to struggling individuals.
One local mental health professional, Ken Seeley, says he’s seen a drastic spike in clients because of the pandemic.
“The suicides have growth, the overdoses have grown. People out here with this pandemic are so isolated. And there’s no human connection right now," said Seeley, also an interventionist and certified trauma professional.
Seeley says that’s one of the biggest problems right now. When people are struggling, they need to reach out for help, but often don’t want to out of anxiety or fear.
“How do we begin to shift the conversation and remove the stigma around asking for help?" asked News Channel 3's Madison Weil.
“That’s a key component," said Seeley. "I personally know because I have been one of those people where I purchased a gun on the internet to commit suicide. I came this close to doing it. And I’m so grateful I didn’t do it and I did ask for help."
Seeley shared he uses his own experience today to urge others to speak with a counselor, therapist or friend.
“There’s a saying out there...suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I want them to know there is help. You can get through this if you ask for help," he said.
You can read the full Desert Healthcare District Community Needs Report HERE.
If you or someone you care about is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. The phone lines are answered by trained professionals; the call is free and confidential. If you need to be connected to mental health services in Riverside County, call the CARES Line at (800) 499-3008. If emergency medical care is needed, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
You can also view a list of local mental health resources and organizations HERE.