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Kern agency continues prevention efforts amid new CDC suicide report

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NOTE: The local crisis hotline is (800) 991-5272, or the local suicide prevention hotline is (800) 273-8255. Help is available.

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – The suicide rate in America is increasing dramatically.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows suicides are up 30 percent since 1999.

In 2016, about 45,000 people died by suicide. Of those 45,000 people, more than half had no previously known mental health illness.

RELATED STORY | Sobering report teases out factors leading to suicides

That's why, in Kern County, the main strategy is prevention though outreach. Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services has a proactive approach to suicide prevention.

"We've seen this wave of suicide coming," said Bill Walker, the director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services.

Even before this latest CDC report came out, the county had been implementing new programs and partnerships to reach people who are at risk of suicide.

"We are saving lives everyday by doing interventions in our school system, doing interventions on our hotline, and doing interventions in our psychiatric evaluation center," said Walker.

The county's "zero suicide" initiative is exploring several approaches to preventing suicide. They're working with hospitals, doctors and police to get people help.

Still, Walker believes more can, should and will be done.

"I wish I could say we're as prepared as we can be, but I'm very confident we're prepared, and we're going to be more prepared and continue to work for these issues," Walker said.

He said the key to suicide prevention is community support and awareness – something he's seen more of lately but believes more is needed.

"This is not something to not talk about. This is something to talk about. This is something to question. Friends question friends when they're worried about them. That shows love. Not worry, love," he said.

The county agency is even supporting an app that can help you determine if one of your friends or family members are suicidal and in need of help. The app is called "Suicide Safe," and it walks you through the right questions to ask.

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