Wyoming’s Suicides Fell by Over 20% in 2022, Department of Health Reports
Suicide prevention advocate celebrates news, but warns to be mindful of trends
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Mar 15, 2023
Grace for 2 Brothers Executive Director Jeremy Bay was pleased that the number of suicides in Wyoming fell by over 20% last year and hopes the state's suicide rate will continue to decline. (Courtesy photo from Jeremy Bay)
By Ellen Fike
Special to the Wyoming Truth
The number of suicides in Wyoming dropped by over 20% last year, the Wyoming Department of Health reported in its release of vital statistics for 2022.
Jeremy Bay, executive director of the suicide-prevention group Grace for 2 Brothers in Cheyenne, called the drop “great news.”
On Tuesday, the health department reported 149 suicides among Wyoming residents in 2022, down from 190 in 2021, 182 in 2020 and 170 in 2019. The data showed that around 72% of the suicides in Wyoming resulted from firearms, while 22% were due to hanging and 4% to poisoning.
“I believe that this [drop] is because of increased focus on mental health and suicide prevention by Gov. Mark Gordon,” Bay told the Wyoming Truth, “[as well as] raised awareness and education, which includes more people being trained on how to ask about suicide and mental health, reduced stigma and increased capacity and interagency collaboration in an effort to increase more evidence-based upstream prevention strategies across the state are all contributing factors.”
In late February, Gordon signed House Bill 65 into law, which established a trust account to provide funding for Wyoming’s two 988 suicide call centers, which are located in Casper and Greybull.
Initially, the bill proposed the state seed the trust account with $46 million, but legislators ultimately stripped the financial commitment from the bill’s final version. Private residents will be allowed to donate to the fund to keep the call centers active.
As a suicide prevention advocate, Bay believes the topic is “everyone’s business” and wants people to know how to recognize warning signs and risk factors.
“The more we understand about contributing factors to suicide, like grief, adverse childhood experiences, trauma, housing and food insecurity and financial instability, the better equipped communities can be to get ahead of a suicide or mental health crisis,” Bay said. “I am proud of the efforts that people and agencies across the state have put toward suicide prevention and hope that the work continues to keep our suicide rates on the decline.”
However, Bay echoed the words of health department Director Stefan Johansson, who stated in a news release on Tuesday that people should look at longer-term trends and rates, as Wyoming’s small population can lead to significant swings in statistics.
“While this [decrease in suicide numbers] is great news, work still needs to be done to create a downward trend in Wyoming’s suicides,” Bay said. “To do this, we need to normalize conversations about mental health and suicide to create community-centric protective factors. If people feel like it’s okay to talk about their mental health, they will.”
According to the health department’s report, the number of births, deaths, marriages and divorces among Wyoming residents also declined in 2022.
Wyoming saw 5,886 deaths last year, down from 6,572 in 2021. The top five causes of death were heart disease, cancer, various accidents and adverse effects, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its related conditions and COVID-19. In both 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in Wyoming.
There were about 200 fewer births in 2022, with 6,050 recorded compared to 6,236 in 2021 and 6,133 in 2020. The highest number of births in the state in the last decade was in 2015, with 7,662 recorded.