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Mental health ‘tsunami’ looms: Can California prevent a surge in suicides? (


Celinda Gonzales has a long list of worries: She worries about COVID-19, which recently spiked near the Yurok reservation where she lives in Humboldt County. She worries about the wildfires threatening her remote, forested town, Weitchpec. She worries about gill rot and algae blooms in the Klamath and Trinity rivers, which join together just over the hill from her trailer; she worries, too, about what the resulting small salmon runs mean for her financially struggling community. 

And she worries about the prospect of more suicides.

For several years, Gonzales, 53, has worked in suicide prevention in the northwestern corner of California, famous for its rocky coastlines and breathtaking forests. It carries the burden of another reputation – about 2 and a half times as many of Humboldt’s residents die by suicide per capita as the rest of the state. 

“We are very concerned about the layering of multiple stresses on the people of California,” said Jim Kooler, assistant deputy director of the state Department of Health Care Services’ behavioral health division. He describes the current moment as having “challenges on top of challenges that we’ve never had to face before.” 

A bill to create a statewide Office of Suicide Prevention was signed into law last Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But there was a big caveat: At this point, there’s no money for it.

To read more of Jocelyn Wiener's article, please click here.

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