Quick statistical note, for those of you setting policy priorities based on actual data (from 2007 through 2016):
- Number of South Dakotans killed by opioid overdoses: 290.
- Number of South Dakotans murdered: 251.
- Number of South Dakotans who committed suicide: 1,373.
On suicide, a 2012 study found that one general area of effective public policy intervention is means restriction:
Suicide attempts using highly lethal means, such as firearms in US men, or pesticides in rural China, India, and Sri Lanka, result in high rates of death10. The most frequent means of suicide in Europe is hanging61 and in North America, firearms62. Suicide methods are necessarily influenced by their accessibility. In many countries, restriction of access to common means of suicide has led to lower overall suicide rates63. For example, increasing firearm control in the US and Canada (64, 65, 66), detoxification of domestic and motor vehicle gas (67, 68), restrictions on use of toxic pesticides in rural areas10, and physical barriers at jumping sites (69, 70) are reported to be of utility in reducing suicides. In addition, reducing access to ligature and ligature points in prisons and hospitals has reduced instances of hanging71 while introducing safer antidepressant, selling smaller packages of analgesics or individually wrapped analgesics, and restricting of the sale of barbiturates has reduced suicides by overdose72. Thus, public policy to reduce access to means for suicide has an important role in prevention [Maya Schwartz-Lifshitz, Gil Zalsman, Lucas Giner, and Maria A. Oquendo, “Can We Really Prevent Suicide?“Current Psychiatry Reports, December 2012].
Opioid over-prescription and abuse is a problem, and it justifiably got a section of its own in Governor Dennis Daugaard’s State of the State Address to open the 2018 Legislature. But suicide is taking a far greater toll on South Dakota. What solutions will our Legislature offer to address that public health crisis?