Wyoming county sees drastic spike in suicide rates

May 11, 2024 | Political News

Natrona County in rural Wyoming has seen a spike in suicides, primarily among its younger population, with 12 people killing themselves in just the past four months.

Coroner Jim Whipps has called on those in charge of the county to take action before things spiral out of control.

During an appearance at a meeting hosted by the Natrona County School District Board of Trustees, Whipps pointed out that they were on pace to see as many as 40 suicides by year's end.

While Natrona County is no stranger to outsized rates of suicide, this year has proven to be worse than normal.

“When I look at these kids in their 20s and 30s,” he told the board, per the Daily Mail, “I can almost always pinpoint that a big part of their problem that led to that suicide started in their adolescent years. It is easy to see that the bottom-up approach is spotty at best and isn't working. It's time for a top-down approach through policy and implementing programs in the schools.”

He cited Sources of Strength as one such program. According to its website, it has been “designed to harness the power of peer social networks to create healthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, violence, bullying, and substance misuse.”

Whipps called on the board to “be transparent with parents” regarding what is being done to deal with the issue, suggesting that, “from the outside looking in, it seems as though there's a lot of turning of the heads, hiding the heads in the sand, passing the buck, [and] dragging the feet from school leadership.”

“Something needs to be done now, not five years from now, not next year,” he added, offering his and the task force's service to assist in the efforts.

Authorities have not been able to pinpoint exactly what has been causing the spike, with Whipps explaining in a 2023 documentary that, “each case that I go out on is unique.”