FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The loss and pain that come with each suicide death is impossible to measure, but experts believe we are seeing some signs of hope.
For the first time since 2016, the number of suicides in Fresno County is below 100.
According to data from the county's behavioral health department, there were 90 deaths last year. It's a decrease from 2018, when the county saw 114.
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The data also shows, of the 90 deaths, 79 were males. Most were in the 26-to-39-year-old age range, and many were white males.
Action News spoke to mental health advocates, who said the drop in overall numbers was expected.
"We actually see this happen a lot of times," explained Brandy Lidbeck, with the Fresno County Suicide Prevention Collaborative. "A decrease -- during when there's like a national or community level crisis, such as natural disasters, or war or pandemic."
Community leaders said that's because there's a sense of connectedness, which lowers the risk of suicide.
"There was a sense of community, meaning that we were all joining together," said David Lopez, program manager of the Central Valley Suicide Prevention Hotline. "We were told to go down...flatten the curve, wear our masks, everyone was doing their part and chipping in."
While suicide deaths are trending down, there are still many calls for help.
According to Lopez, calls to the hotline increased during the pandemic and they were longer and more complex than years past.
He also said the hotline received more "active rescue" calls than before, which is where first responders are sent to check up on an individual.
"There were a lot more people that were really on edge," Lopez said. "So thankful that they were able to actually call us and speak to our counselors."
He added that the risk of suicide is expected to increase as the country re-adjusts to its new normal.
The Fresno County Suicide Prevention Collaborative plans to continue its programs and services aimed at reducing suicides and the stigma surrounding the topic, while analyzing data to improve ongoing prevention efforts.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24-7. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or visit fresnocares.org.