Farmington experiencing spike in suicides - Albuquerque Journal

Farmington experiencing spike in suicides

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

It didn’t seem like a trend at first.

But Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe noticed that the number of suicides in his city began increasing more rapidly than normal, especially during the summer months.

“We had a number of hangings that our officers were going to,” he said. “It appeared to be coming faster than I’ve seen it in the past.”

Eventually, he and other local officials realized they were witnessing a disturbing trend in Farmington, as the number of suicides in the community increased by 175% compared with the previous year.

This year, there have been 11 suicides in the city of around 45,000 people, compared with four during the same period in 2019.

“To see your suicide rate at almost three times the normal rate, it’s obviously concerning to us,” Hebbe told the Journal in a phone interview.

The last two weeks alone have seen three people kill themselves, including a man who first shot his wife before turning the gun on himself and a 14-year-old boy who shot himself.

It’s the latter demographic that has officials most concerned. Out of the 11 suicides this year, four are juveniles, a statistic Hebbe said is not typical of the area. He said a young person committing suicide is the worst type of call his officers receive.

“There’s really nothing we can do,” he said. “That’s the worst part for us.”

Why so many are ending their life remains a mystery, as none of the cases seem to be connected, Hebbe said. Some, though, speculate environmental factors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic might be a cause.

Suicide and crisis hotlines told the Journal in April that they were fielding an increase in calls across the state and that many callers had difficulty coping with long hours of isolation during the pandemic.

A Boston University study found that the number of adults experiencing depressive symptoms tripled to 27.5% after the start of the pandemic.

And Farmington, along with the rest of San Juan County, has been hit harder by the pandemic than many other New Mexico communities.

According to the state Department of Health, more than 1,100 people in Farmington have tested positive, with the neighboring Navajo Nation among the hardest-hit regions in the nation. The virus has killed nearly 200 in San Juan County. The local economy has taken a hit too, with San Juan County facing a 16% unemployment rate, greater than the statewide average of 13%.

Farmington Schools Superintendent Eugene Schmidt said three of the juveniles who took their own lives were of high school-age and noted that many of the district’s students have had trouble adjusting to an online learning environment, where they’re physically disconnected from their peers.

“We’ve really tried to keep a close watch over kids,” Schmidt said. “It’s just a little bit harder since kids are home.”

The district has implemented suicide-awareness programs that highlight warning signs of suicide, but the school district’s director of support services, Cody Diehl, said those signs are much harder to see on a computer screen.

Farmington police have also made social media posts encouraging those with thoughts of suicide to call emergency hotlines.

But without anyone reporting those warning signs, Hebbe said it’s difficult for his department to try to prevent someone from attempting to take their life, which leads to a lot of frustration.

“I don’t have the answer,” he said. “I’m not really sure what more I can do.”

Some have gone to the state for answers.

Farmington Mayor Nathan Duckett said he brought up the recent increase in suicides during a conference with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office and mayors around the state. He told the Journal he wants the state to investigate the issue, including how COVID-19’s impact on the economy might be related.

“We believe the state should take some action of some kind and start analyzing what continued closures may be doing to our communities and to our people,” he said.

Duckett said he’s advocating for schools and businesses to reopen, arguing their closures can lead to poverty and undue stress on residents. He has previously criticized COVID-19 restrictions implemented by Lujan Grisham.

Whether suicides have increased statewide remains unclear, but those interviewed agree it is highly unlikely that only Farmington is experiencing a spike.

“It’s hard to believe Farmington stands out in the singular,” Hebbe said. “Probably, other communities are seeing this too.”

Home » News » New Mexico News » Farmington experiencing spike in suicides

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
Valentine's Day in Albuquerque: Lovers, friends and lonely hearts ...
ABQnews Seeker
There are plenty of fun options ... There are plenty of fun options for everyone to celebrate on or around the occasion
2
Ready for Rihanna? A look at five songs that ...
ABQnews Seeker
Journal Staff WriterI am not sure ... Journal Staff WriterI am not sure if you have heard, but there is a football game this ...
3
Forest Service conducts prescribed burns in New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
"We're doing everything we can to ... "We're doing everything we can to be prepared and prevent an unintended outcome," said Cibola National Forest Fire Fuels and Aviation Staff Officer Matt ...
4
7 activities around the state to love this Valentine's ...
ABQnews Seeker
This weekend leads into Valentine's Day, ... This weekend leads into Valentine's Day, a holiday commonly associated with amor. Here are some activities to help you spend time with those you ...
5
Person fatally shot outside truck stop in Northwest Albuquerque
ABQnews Seeker
A person was shot and killed ... A person was shot and killed at a truck stop Wednesday afternoon in Northwest Albuquerque. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said police responded ...
6
Senate decisively approves bill funding NM wildfire recovery efforts. ...
ABQnews Seeker
While New Mexico waits for federal ... While New Mexico waits for federal disaster relief funds to arrive, a bill that would allow public repair work in the burn scar of ...
7
Magician Jordan Jonas brings card tricks, mind reading and ...
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque magician Jordan Jonas brings his ... Albuquerque magician Jordan Jonas brings his creepy brand of psychic ability, sideshow stunts and storytelling into a haunted evening at Fusion at 7 p.m. ...
8
Senate Bill 12 aims to expand film incentive package
ABQnews Seeker
A proposed bill will help continue ... A proposed bill will help continue growth of state film jobs and workforce training. On Wednesday, Senate Bill 12 was introduced by Sen. Nancy ...
9
7 gun laws proposed in New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
Gun control legislation is a priority ... Gun control legislation is a priority this year; here’s a round-up of what proposed laws would do, and where they’re at in the process.