Health leaders in Clark County are looking into the increase in suicide attempts and deaths over the past five years.
Suicide claimed 21 lives in Clark County in 2015. Coroner’s reports are not complete on all of those deaths, said Clark County Coroner Richard Marsh, but that number is the highest number of deaths by suicide the county has seen in the past six years, according to data from the Clark County Coroner’s Office.
The number of emergency calls for suicides or suicide attempts have increased more than 35 percent since 2012, according to data from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
Emergency dispatchers received 320 calls to report attempted suicides last year.
“Depression is often a hidden problem,” said Dr. Greta Mayer, CEO of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison counties.
She said the spike in attempted suicides and suicides is also up in Greene and Madison counties, and mental health and health leaders in all counties are trying to work on suicide prevention methods to bring down the numbers.
“The idea is to look at risk factors and warning signs involved in those cases so we can look at prevention and look at strategies to inform how we educate the community about the problem,” Mayer said.
In the past 15 years, more than 20,000 Ohioans died by suicide, according to state data records.
Experts say nearly all such deaths could be prevented, but people don’t seek help.
“The larger question is getting people to help so professionals can sort those issues out of what problems really are,” Mayer said.
White males between the ages of 45 to 65 are the most at-risk group and have the highest rate of death by suicide in Clark County, Mayer said.
The mental health and recovery board is working on additional programs to get to the root of the problem.
Depression has many causes, experts say, but the increase in suicide deaths or attempted suicide calls could be linked to increased drug abuse.
“Substance use can actually lead to depression and depression can lead to substance use problems — so we know those two are intertwined,” Mayer said.
Several public and private options are available for people seeking mental health help.
Mental Health Services of Clark and Madison Counties has walk-in services available Monday through Friday at its offices, 474 N. Yellow Springs St.
The national suicide hotline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), is a great resource, Mayer said. And anyone can call 911 to report and ask for help.
The first step in stopping deaths from suicide is talking a person in need into getting help.
“It’s an illness just like heart disease or high blood pressure — it runs in families,” said Cindy Price, whose son, Tim, died from suicide in 2009.
Since her son’s death, Cindy Price has worked to help other people spot warning signs and get help for their loved ones, she said. She leads the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors team that responds to suicide deaths in the county to help survivors cope.
Support from family and friends is what can most help people with depression or mental health issues, Mayer said.
“If we can get friends and family kind of to surround that person (with depression) and to make an appointment, the calls and then the follow up — that’s what really makes the difference,” she said.