SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New data shows a decline, albeit small, in the suicide rate among New Mexico’s youth. Officials say it could be due to increased awareness and resources.

In 2021, the rate of death among New Mexico youth aged five to 18 years old dropped by about 16% compared to the year before, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But, David Morgan, a public information officer from the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH), points out that the numbers only add up to a “small decline.”

The numbers still need to be verified by the CDC. That will happen by fall of this year. But if the numbers hold up, it could be a positive sign for New Mexico, though officials say there’s still work to be done.

“Suicide prevention works,” Department of Human Services Secretary and Acting Department of Health Secretary Dr. David R. Scrase said in a press release. “We need to maintain focus on our ongoing efforts to fix New Mexico’s broken mental healthcare system.”

New Mexico’s youth suicide rate generally ranks high compared to other states. In 2020, for example, around eight out of every 100,000 people aged one to 19 died of intentional self-harm, according to the CDC’s WONDER database. Colorado’s rate was the same as New Mexico’s, and only South Dakota had a higher rate.

September is Suicide Prevention Month in New Mexico. And officials say ongoing public health programs could be behind the slight decline in numbers recently.

For example, earlier this year, the U.S. designated 988 as the nation’s first nationwide three-digit mental health hotline. It’s similar to 911, but connects callers with mental health professionals instead of the police.

Here in New Mexico, local efforts have also been underway to try to increase access to mental health services. For example, groups within the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition have secured grant funding to offer support and training to lower suicide and mental health crises, according to the DOH.

While the provisional data shows a slight improvement for New Mexico’s youth, it also shows a slight increase in the suicide rate among New Mexico’s adults, according to the DOH. That trend could be linked to hardships brought on by the pandemic, but the connection between the adult suicide rate and “various emotional, physical, and financial costs associated with the pandemic is not clear,” the DOH noted in a press release.

To help someone who might be considering suicide, you can call or text 988 or text “HELLO” to 741741. Those numbers offer 24-hour, confidential support.