Fresno County sees spike in suicides during COVID-19 pandemic

Data shows Fresno County saw 17 suicides in June alone - that's the most for a single month in nearly three years.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prove deadly both locally and nationwide, health officials worry the longer the health crisis continues, the greater toll it may take on the mental health of the people of Central California.

"It's certainly something that we're watching. As the pandemic continues we've even had people tell us they would rather get COVID than be stuck at home," says Dawan Utecht, Fresno County Director of Behavioral Health.

The pandemic has forced many businesses to close and left millions of Americans without a job, and now local experts say they're seeing an alarming trend of suicides.

Data shows Fresno County saw 17 suicides in June alone - that's the most for a single month in nearly three years.

Before the pandemic, Fresno County actually saw a decrease in suicides compared to the same time last year.

State officials are now reminding health care professionals on what to look for when dealing with a patient's mental state.

"I think the focus on mental health is really important. I think that substantiates so much other health education and preventative health that needs to be done for our community. I think you really have to focus on the mental health first," says Dr. Rais Vohra with the county's health department.

Local health officials also say they are concerned to see a decline in people seeking drug recovery services during the pandemic.

Experts recommend friends and family look out for suicidal signs in loved ones - signals that include depression and dramatic changes in behavior.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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