Suicide is a major national public health issue in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers continue to rise, and it’s a serious issue in our own backyard, too.
Bismarck Public Schools recently performed a youth risk behavior survey. It found over 30 percent of high schoolers surveyed reported feelings of hopelessness, and 22 percent of middle school students had seriously thought about suicide.
Kora Dockter, chairperson for North Dakota’s Suicide Prevention Coalition, said what’s happening in our schools is downright scary — and she’s on a mission for change.
“We’re in trouble,” she pointed out. “I’m worried about where we are going.”
Dockter said suicide is an epidemic. In 2016, the CDC released data showing the suicide rate in the United States had hit a 30-year high — but two years later, the number still kept rising.
And, Dockter noted, it’s happening to kids younger than ever before. She said there was a case of an 11-year-old who died by suicide in North Dakota.
“When it comes to kids, we just don’t expect it and we need to,” she said.
Dockter believes the increasing numbers are a direct result of the world as we know it in 2020.
She blames electronics, disconnecting kids from reality.
She blames parents raising entitled children who become bullies.
“You’ve got a recipe for disaster,” Dockter simply said.
She believes the system is failing not just kids, but adults and the elderly — all groups showing a rise in suicides.
And, for Dockter, her mission for change is a personal one.
“My dearest Steven, you’re my firstborn and my only son. Trusting others to protect you was my biggest mistake,” she said, to herself and the world.
Steven died nearly six years ago, leaving behind a wife and three kids. Dockter said his depression was like a cancer that consumed him emotionally and physically.
She believes her son could have been saved but said the healthcare system has got to change.
“We need to start recognizing this as the disease of the brain that it is,” Dockter argued. “My parents were discharged. I met with a home healthcare nurse, we had a plan! My son was released, who was at a higher risk of dying than they were. All it said was, ‘release home to self.'”
And that’s her mission with North Dakota’s Suicide Prevention Coalition: Making sure Steven’s death was not in vain — calling for change and awareness.
And advocating for all those who suffer in silence.
Dockter said it takes a village, and when there’s a cardiac patient they don’t just treat the heart, there are meetings with dietitians and a plan is made for treating all aspects of the heart.
She said that same village needs to be available for mental illness.
The CDC reports North Dakota’s suicide rate has increased more than other states, rising 58 percent from 1999 to 2016.
The North Dakota Suicide Prevention Coalition will be holding its third annual meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
There will be prevention training, but you can also hear from suicide survivors and experts.
The event is open to the public. To register, click on this link.