Valley Health providers address mental health issues during Suicide Prevention Week.

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Phoenix (3TV/CBS 5) — It’s Suicide Prevention Week, and there’s a big push in the Valley to stop it, especially with so many families affected.

Mental health experts say the suicide rate across the country has risen nearly 40% in the past two decades, and the epidemic hasn’t helped either. Our state’s suicide rate is 36 percent higher than the national average. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, more than 1,400 people died by suicide in 2019.

Dr. Tiffany Pankow, with HonorHealth Family Medicine, says an increasing number of victims are teenagers.

“I think teenagers are under a lot of stress. There are many components that come with this. I think the stress of the pandemic has affected our teenagers, and I think social media can affect our teenagers as well.

She encourages parents to connect with their children and discuss mental health. Dr. Pankow says talking about suicide doesn’t make it happen, but it does open up a conversation with teenagers.

There are 29 HonorHealth clinics around the Valley. Their goal is to have each lined up at the behavioral health clinic by the end of the year. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about half of those who die by suicide receive medical help.

“If we have integrated behavioral health specialists in our primary care clinics, we’ll make that kind of part of your health routine, which will improve access to care, come forward and help reduce mental health care,” Pankow said.

According to Teen Lifeline’s suicide prevention hotline, they received 22,000 calls and 20,000 text messages from Arizona youth ages 10-19 in 2021.

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