Wyoming has begun to trim its notoriously high suicide rate, an organizer of the Suicide Prevention Conference at the Ramkota Hotel in Casper this week.

"We have moved down to sixth in the nation for suicide," Tammy Noel said.

"We were running one and two quite often," Noel said. "We are now down to sixth. So what I would like to see is that number to go further down where we're not number one because this is not how we want to be seen -- as number one in the nation."

But it still has a long way to go, said Noel, director of the Wyoming chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a member of the Natrona County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

The conference has been focusing on connecting the professional and community resources to address the problem of suicide in Wyoming.

While ambitious, participants and speakers advocate "zero suicide model" for communities, Noel said.

"That program is actually connecting primary care physicians with the mental health component to get the continuum of care," she said. "Continuum of care would be having primary care doctors connected with (mental health) clinicians, and being able to recognize symptoms in clients."

Physicians, she said, work with a medical model that diagnoses a problem such as a broken leg, treats it such as with a cast and physical therapy, and an outcome that the leg is healed.

Mental health clinicians take a somewhat different approach, Noel said.

They also diagnose and treat a problem, but the end result isn't a healing as much as it is a long-term recovery process, Noel said. "Recovery, for some people with a mental illness, can be long-term."

That recovery may include fixing thought processes, dealing with trauma and situational depression, Noel said. "Somebody who has attempted suicide has a different recovery process."

The conference resumes at 8:30 a.m. today with discussions about suicide and law enforcement, working with survivors, suicide and men, suicide and spirituality, and suicides by veterans. You can still register at the conference.


September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Conference speaker Lance Neiberger lost his son to suicide nine years ago. He recently told K2 Radio suicide is like a monster in the closet that has power over us as long we don't want to deal with it. “But if we can open that closet door and see that there’s something there that can be dealt with, then that monster doesn’t hold the power that it used to.”

K2 Radio will talk to others who have grappled with suicide and why it affects our communities and state so deeply.

And we will look what has and is being done to identify and tame this monster among us.