Suicide is tragic and traumatizing. But, prevention, intervention, and postvention need to be consistently discussed in homes, schools, and communities.
Whether city or country dwellers, suicide needs to be addressed. Countywide and statewide, suicide education needs to be at the forefront.
A new study on suicide in Ohio was released by The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health (the alliance includes 28 partner organizations). Additional resources for the study included the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Ohio Death Certificate File and the Centers for Disease Control. The Ohio University’s College of Health Services and Professions summarized results in a news release.
There were 15,246 suicide deaths in Ohio over the 10-year span from 2008 to 2017 according to the study.
The research indicates the suicide rate within Ohio’s younger population (29 and younger) has increased by 33 percent since 2008. And between 2008 and 2017, 161 suicides occurred among those 14 years of age or younger.
For children under 14, suicide rose 80 percent; for people 20 to 29, it was up 36 percent; for those over age 60, suicide increased 57 percent.
The lowest suicide rates per 100,000 population in the state were reported in Holmes County (6.85), Delaware County (9.87) and Hardin County (10.29).
Suicide rates were highest for people who were white at 14.6. African Americans were at 7.4 and “other minorities” were at 4.9, according to the study.
Suicide by guns was the highest rate of death at 50.9 percent of all suicides.
The data reported 3,459 people were 60 or older when they died by suicide and nearly 70 percent of those over age 60 used a firearm.
Suicide in Appalachia Ohio
The new study reported that Appalachian counties in Ohio make up nine of Ohio’s 10 highest suicide rates per 100,000 people.
Meigs County experienced the highest suicide rate in the state at 21.5 followed by Jackson County (19.9) and Hocking County (19.7).
Although the highest suicide rates were experienced in Ohio’s Appalachian region during the 10-year period that was studied, it's important to note that both rural and suburban areas experienced the greatest increase in the rate of suicides per 100,000 population. Cuyahoga (1,461) and Franklin (1,408) counties, the county seats for two of the state's biggest cities in Cleveland and Columbus, were home to the highest total number of suicide fatalities in the 10-year span of the study.
Members of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation testified at the Ohio Statehouse to urge legislators to include mental health funding for Ohio schools in the state’s upcoming budget plan, according to a 2019 article at WOUB.
Governor Mike DeWine has proposed a 2020 budget that includes $675 million in funding for mental health services in Ohio schools.
Kognito trainings are online, self-paced, and feature interactive lessons on recognizing the warning signs of student distress in elementary, middle, and high school. School staff and students use avatars and simulations to practice recognizing behaviors which are signs of distress and having important conversations with youth across the K-12 age range. These simulations are approved to meet HB 543 legislation, requiring education on suicide prevention for Ohio K-12 school staff. Check out the website at www.ohiospf.org.
Hope Squad started this school year in 39 Southwest Ohio middle and high schools. Hope Squads are groups of peers trained to listen to classmates suffering disappointment, crisis, mental health problems or suicidal thoughts. The squad members do not offer counseling or therapy but refer students to adults who can help. Hope Squad is a national movement to address the youth-suicide epidemic. Check out the website at www.hopesquad.com.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Southern Ohio.