MARIETTA - Suicide has become the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States over car crash-related deaths, according to a recent study published by the American Journal of Public Health.
The study found that deaths from car accidents decreased 25 percent, while deaths from suicides rose 15 percent.
In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, and more than 500,000 were at risk of suicide, according to Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Those involved with state and local suicide prevention say they are not surprised but imagine Washington County residents would be.
"I think they'd be shocked because we don't think any of us can have this happen to us," said LeeAnn Price, president of the Washington County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Although there is ample publicity about car crashes and talk about the need for seat belts and other preventive efforts, little is said about death by suicide.
"We don't like to talk about these things because we see them as character flaws rather than health-related issues," said Carolyn Givens, executive director of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.
In 2010, 1,420 Ohioans completed a suicide attempt including eight males and one female in Washington County, according to Miriam Keith, consumer support coordinator at the Washington County Behavioral Health Board. Washington County's numbers of death by suicide are lower than those in many Ohio counties. Givens said she believes many factors contribute to this.
"There is a strong sense of community spirit that is prevalent (in the county). There is also connection to extended family which we consider to be a protective factor," said Givens.
A higher level of spirituality among area residents is another positive factor, Givens added.
Whether young, old or in between, all ages are impacted by suicide. For young people, middle-age men and men over age 75, the numbers of suicide by death are increasing.
"Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people age 15 to 24 in Ohio," Givens said.
Oftentimes high school students know their friends have mental-health issues.
"A lot of high school kids see problems within their friendship circle, but don't know what to do or what to look for," Price said.
Middle-age men are at higher risk for death by suicide for several reasons including the bad economy, a home foreclosure, the break up of a relationship and job loss.
"Males have a stronger sense of connection to their job," Givens said. "They'll ask each other 'Where do you work?'"
Men age 75 and older sometimes die by suicide when they retire and have no purpose for living, lose a spouse or experience loss related to today's down economy.
According to Keith, suicide warning signs include talking about wanting to die or kill oneself, buying a firearm, stockpiling medication, searching online about death by suicide, expressing feelings of helplessness, feeling like a burden to others and changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
"It's not one or two signs," Givens said. "You need a variety of these different signs and symptoms over a period of time."
Friends and family members should talk openly to someone they think may be suicidal.
"Each of us has the ability to save a life and restore hope by asking the right questions," said Givens.
Questions can include "I can tell you're not feeling yourself today. Is there anything I can help you with?" "Has something changed recently for you?" and even "Are you feeling suicidal?"
Education that suicide is preventable is the primary mission of the Washington Suicide Prevention Coalition, Price noted.
Coalition members have established a speakers' bureau as well as the Mid-Ohio Valley Suicide Support Group for those who have lost a loved one or family member to suicide. The support group meets from 7 to 8:30 p.m., the first Tuesday of the month at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 320 Second St., Marietta. (parking off Third Street).
The coalition's meetings are 4 to 5 p.m., the third Thursday of the month at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Fourth and Scammel streets, Marietta. Meetings are open to the public.