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Mental Health Crisis: Pima County Health professionals working to prevent rising suicide rates

Mental Health Crisis: Pima County Health professionals working to prevent rising suicide rates
Posted at 5:27 PM, May 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-20 21:29:23-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Medical professionals are saying the United States is in a mental health crisis. During the pandemic, we were so focused on physical symptoms, and possibly ignored the problems up here.

Mental health isn't easily visible and for that reason it’s often overlooked. Aaron Tilley-Collura makes it part of his job to make sure that doesn't happen.

“I’ve never really experienced it until I started this job," said Tilley-Collura, Owner of Southwest Non-emergency Medical Transport. "Now I see it. I see how easy it is for people to become very sad and miserable.”

Collura’s company transports patients of all ages from their homes to the hospital or to a rehab facility.

“Because we see them from the time they get discharged from the hospital, throughout their recovery and rehabilitation, we get to see the process,” Tilley-Collura said.

He usually works with trauma patients, many of whom spiral into depression after serious injuries, and in some cases, take their own life.

“It’s nice to get those thank you cards and those cards of appreciation but every now and then we get invitations to funerals and that’s the sad part about it,” Tilley-Collura said.

For many years Pima County’s suicide mortality rate has been higher than the rest of the state and the country. It’s for this reason Collura signed up for the Health Department’s suicide prevention training. The training is focused on the QPR response: which stands for question, persuade, and refer.

“It teaches individuals how to appropriately question and be able to persuade and help a person or refer them to the help that may be necessary,” said Andrea Altamirano, a Mental Health Instructor with Pima County's Health Department.

Participants learn how to recognize risk factors and expressions of hopelessness or depression. Professionals say the most important skill is to actively listen to your loved ones, and create space for open conversation.

“When you’re able to help a person, you offer the hope to someone who may feel that taking their life is the answer to most likely a temporary problem,” Altamirano said.

You can call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It provides free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for people in suicidal crisis or distress.