LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — On Monday, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts provided an update on COVID-19 and signed a proclamation, making September Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the state.
On Aug. 26, Ricketts announced a hospital staffing emergency based on COVID hospitalization rates being higher than 10%. In response, he signed an executive order to cut red tape in an effort to bring in more hospital staff.
Now, based on hospitalization rates of COVID-19 patients staying above 10% over the past seven days, the governor said the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Service’s website would once again display hospitalization rates.
The hospitalization dashboard appeared on the website again beginning Monday evening.
“When you have very few cases, that’s where you start getting into concerns about protecting people’s privacy," Ricketts said. "And so we had to waive that statute to be able to publish that data.”
Along with hospitalization data, the dashboard will also be bringing back case numbers on a county-by-county basis. This information will be updated every weekday.
He also said the state would continue to monitor the hospitalization rates and take additional steps if needed.
Senator Michaela Cavanaugh, who was one of eleven senators to urge Ricketts to bring back the dashboard in August, says the decision surprised her.
"Of course I would like to see all of the data returned and perhaps that will come with time, but right now, this was an important step," Cavanaugh said.
She adds it would have been nice to have this information as schools were preparing to return to the classroom when the senators sent the letter.
“I think the lack of knowledge, we did see an increase in COVID cases and hospitalization because people didn’t understand how severe it was," Cavanaugh said.
Director of the Division of Behavior Health for the Nebraska Department of Health and Services Sheri Dawson and Kim Foundation Executive Director Julia Hebenstreit joined Ricketts to walk about Suicide Prevention Awareness Month as well as National Recovery Month.
Both stressed the importance of being aware of the risks and signs of suicide, helping those who may be considering it, and providing resources for them.
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Substance abuse
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Talking or reading about death
- And a sense of hopelessness
Suicide risk factors include:
- Death in the family
- Family trauma
- Being a victim of bullying
- Prior attempts
Ways that you can help:
- Providing a sense of connection
- Breaking down barriers for and providing access to mental health services
If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, they suggest talking to them directly.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK. The hotline is free and has trained crisis counselors available 24/7.