The rate of suicide is growing in the United States, across every demographic.
According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control in June, rates of suicide have increased nearly 30 percent across the nation from 1999 to 2016, including a more than 30 percent increase in Ohio during that time period.
The rate, in 2016, is nearly four times higher among men (21.2 percent per 100,000 people) than women (6 percent).
“The increases are alarming. So much so that the federal government, the state government and here locally with the (Lorain County) Board of Mental Health, there is quite a lot of energy going into solving the problem,” said Eric Morse, executive director of The Nord Center, on Friday.
Morse said local experts in the field also are seeing a rise in suicide among Lorain County residents. According to figures from Blanche Dortch of the Lorain County Mental Health Board, suicides increased from 22 (of 100,000 people) in 1999 to 43 (of 100,000) in 2016.
These numbers did not include those who die in another county, or those from other counties who die in Lorain County.
By that definition, that number would not include cases like Brenden Rich-Beckett’s, who died in a Cleveland hospital several days after a suicide attempt.
In Lorain County, a suicide hotline is staffed by clinicians through the center around the clock.
That toll-free number is (800) 888-6161.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a child or an adult. If someone in Lorain County feels like they are contemplating suicide, they can call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. They can call us, consult with us, or someone can come here and get an assessment,” Morse said.
Even family members or concerned friends may call to make a referral “and we will work directly with that person to get to them to get help,” he said.
The county board promotes the Navigator, a helpline to connect adults or children to mental health services. That number is (440) 240-7025 and is available for English- and Spanish-speaking clients 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, and can accept messages.
Suicide among teens has shown a “slight increase,” Morse said, but the biggest group historically has been, and continues to be, white men in the 40s to 50s age group. Having access to a firearm increases that risk. According to the CDC report, 54 percent of suicide victims do not have a history of mental health issues. Among that group, firearms is by far the means of death. Gun-related suicides outnumber firearm-related deaths of other categories, Morse said.
Morse said that while mental health professionals cannot pinpoint for certain what is driving the numbers up, he said some issues are known risk factors.
People with higher risk of suicide include those with a history of past suicidal behaviors; current or past psychiatric issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders or diagnoses such as schizophrenia; complaints of hallucinations or inability to sleep; or anyone expressing low energy, excessive physical pain or hopelessness.
“Take those things and add life stressors to them and there’s reason for further concern,” Morse said.
Life stressors that are particularly worrying can be anything that can lead to humiliation, despair or shame, such as the loss of a relationship, a job, or the diagnosis of a severe illness or debilitating condition. Anyone who is seeking treatment and suddenly stops should also raise concern.
Often, the concern over availability of mental health treatment can be a concern. Too often, people who are uninsured or under-insured think they cannot afford to seek help. Sometimes even those who can afford help will not seek it, due to a perceived stigma of “needing” psychiatric help, he said.
“All services we provide through the Crisis Line are free. And we work with people to figure out the best place to go to meet their insurance or financial needs. Thanks to our local mental health board and the citizens of Lorain County who are so generous with the mental health levy, there is assistance to get them the help they need,” he said.
There also is the national Crisis Text Line, which is not operated by Nord but works with local crisis counselors to find local help, he said. The text line is free and confidential, Morse said, and organizers say accessing the service does not appear on cell phone bills. The anonymous line aims to help younger customers who may feel more comfortable seeking anonymous, text-based help, and is available to anyone facing issues of anxiety or depression, not necessarily only suicidal thoughts.
To access that help, text 4HOPE to 741741. Organizers say responses will be texted within minutes, although texts including the words “suicide” or other keywords will be bumped up in priority.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-TALK (8255). For information about resources and chat online, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
“I think if a parent sees any warning signs that are concerning, it’s always better to reach out for help, so that someone else can give a professional opinion on it. People think if they call the crisis hotline, they’re automatically put in the hospital. In 70 percent of the cases we go out on, they stay in the home, they’re stabilized without hospitalization or other things to cause further disruption in the home,” Morse said.