Suicide rates jump
The Daily Record - 6/13/2018
Ohio’s suicide rate rose by 36 percent from 1999 to 2016, a federal report released Thursday shows.
The report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. suicide rate increased by 25.4 percent in that span: The nation had a rate of 15.4 suicides per 100,000 people in the 2014 to 2016 period, compared with a 12.3 rate in the 1999 to 2001 period.
Ohio’s increase was the 19th-highest among the states. Its rate of 15.8 deaths per 100,000 people was the 32nd-highest.
The numbers, which included people 10 and older, came as no surprise to local mental-health professionals.
“We’re not shocked by them, but we are a bit disheartened by them,” said Dr. Mark Hurst of the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. He said Ohio’s number of suicides had stabilized from 2011 to 2014 before rising in 2015 and again in 2016, to 1,706. That’s an average of nearly five a day, or about one every five hours.
The department’s suicide-prevention initiatives have been augmented with funding allocated by the General Assembly since 2016. Through partnerships with other groups, Hurst said, programs are being used to address gaps in suicide-prevention initiatives. Those include training primary-care doctors to screen for mental illnesses, teaching children coping skills, and providing effective treatments for people who consider or attempt suicide.
“We would like to lower our rates — we’re going to lower our rates. But we won’t be happy until there are zero suicides in Ohio,” Hurst said. “We know we can’t do it all in one year, but we’re going to keep pushing forward and saving lives.”
Across the United States, nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016, more than twice the number lost to homicides.
The most common method used was a gun.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, and the second-leading cause among people ages 14 to 35.
The suicide rate was highest in Montana at 29.2 per 100,000 residents, and the lowest in Washington, D.C., at 6.9 per 100,000.
The rate jumped the most, 57 percent, in North Dakota, and half of the states saw increases of more than 30 percent. Only one state, Nevada, saw its rate decrease — by 1 percent.
Of equal concern to local and federal health officials was a finding that in a subgroup of 27 states, more than half of the people who died by suicide had no known mental illness.
That compares with suicide research that traditionally has shown that about 90 percent of people who die by suicide have some type of mental illness, said Dr. Megan Schabbing, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus.
A number of people with mental-health issues that remain undiagnosed could contribute, she said.
“To me, that shows we’re not doing a good enough job with mental-health screening,” Schabbing said. If health-care providers recognized depression, anxiety and other such issues early, she added, it would reduce the number of people who get to the point of considering suicide.
Another factor could be the stigma associated with mental illness making people reluctant to seek help, said Arielle Sheftall, a research scientist in the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus.
Other suicide risk factors include broken relationships, homelessness, job loss, physical health problems, and crises such as a legal issue, Schabbing said. Substance abuse also raises the risk, she said, noting that the increase in opioid use could be a factor in the recent suicide increases.
Key in addressing the problem is the involvement of the community, Sheftall said. For example, the prevention center works to train teachers, counselors, coaches and students to detect signs of a suicide risk and how to communicate and reach out, she said.
“Suicide is not just a research problem; it’s a public-health problem,” Sheftall said. “And if we want to make change, we have to be invested in that on all levels.”
For help, contact the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Hotline at 614-221-5445; the Teen Suicide Prevention Hotline at 614-294-3300; or the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255/?TALK (or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers). To reach someone at Ohio’s 24/?7 Crisis Text Line, send 4HOPE to 741741.
Information from The Washington Post was included in this report.
CREDIT: JOANNE VIVIANO