LUVERNE — The Southwestern Mental Health Center celebrated its 60th anniversary with a “Seeds of Hope” suicide prevention fundraiser June 12 at the Worthington Event Center.

The mental health center began in 1959 in Luverne with a handful of staff and has now grown to more than 100 staff and five full-time clinic locations: Luverne, Pipestone, Worthington, Windom and Jackson.

In 2018, the Southwestern Mental Health Center (SWMHC) served more than 5,000 clients and families. Despite tremendous growth, demand for services can still overwhelm capacity.

With the rate of suicides rising across the country — from 37,000 in 2009 to more than 47,000 in 2017 — SWMHC Executive Director Scott Johnson said the group most at risk today is middle-aged men, with the highest risk occupation being farming.

Each suicide is estimated to impact the health of more than 100 people around that person, Johnson said. The impact is thought to be heightened in small, tight-knit communities.

“We are in a high-risk area at a high-risk time,” Johnson said.

The “Seeds of Hope” event raised more than $20,000 for SWMHC’s suicide prevention efforts, materials and partnerships, including its 24/7 Crisis Hotline (1-800-642-1525), the Minnesota Crisis Text Line (text MN to 741741) and Avera’s Farmer Stress Hotline (1-800-691-4336).

“We have been challenged to make suicide prevention a core component of our services,” Johnson said. “With the task being large and with few resources available to do the work, we have been challenged to raise money and partnerships to do this work.”