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Zero Suicides campaign: Homeless people often don't get the help they need

Officials at the Kern County Behavioral Health and Services said it is hard to get research on homelessness and suicide, as the numbers are constantly changing. However, homelessness is a risk factor for suicide. (KBAK/KBFX/file photo)

According to Kern County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, being homeless is a risk factor for suicide.

"That doesn't mean all homeless people kill themselves, but by being homeless you can become hopeless and helpless," Ellen Eggert from KBHRS said.

She said it is hard to get research on homelessness and suicide, because it's self-reported.

"In Kern County, we do a count once a year, but it's really hard," she said. "There aren't a lot of up-to-date reports on exactly how many, but we do know that homeless people suffer from physical ailments."

Eggert said a lot of people experiencing homelessness have either a physical disability, mental illness or a substance use disorder.

"For some people, it can be a downward spiral," she said.

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Eggert said research shows they often don't get help.

"Most of them don't access help," she said. "So they're out there and they're not getting any better, they're getting worse, so we know that they have a higher rate of suicide attempts. A lot of them go unreported, we know we have a higher rate of suicide ideation."

Eggert said there is always hope and resources to help.

"We can't offer you a house immediately, but we can offer you some referrals," she said.

Eggert said often times people who are homeless are stereotyped and overlooked.

"I love that we love rescuing animals," she said. "But we got to keep people there too because everyone is redeemable and everybody is worth rescuing no matter what."

She said a simple smile or 'hello' can make the world of difference.

"So many people don't have human touch, so many people there already feel like the dredges of society," she said. "A lot of times it's not about the money, it's about that relationship."

As part of our efforts to help with the Zero Suicides initiative, we want to also provide people with access to resources.

If you, a loved one, or a friend is having suicidal thoughts, or if you even think they could harm themselves or others, call the suicide prevention hotline at (800) 991-5272.

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