Those struggling must be told they’re not alone

As surges in COVID-19 numbers prompt many to follow social distancing and isolation guidance that was in place for most of the spring, mental health experts are warning about the effects of that kind of isolation — and the hopelessness that comes from the accompanying economic challenges.

Increases in the number of reported suicides are a real possibility.

But the unfortunate truth is suicides have been on the increase across the country for decades, according to a study titled “Suicide in Ohio: Facts, Figures, and the Future.” It shows suicide deaths have risen sharply in the Buckeye State, increasing by 34 percent over the 10 years from 2009 to 2018, with men dying by suicide much more frequently than women. In 2018, men accounted for 1,425 of a total 1,804 suicide deaths in Ohio.

Statewide, the average annual rates of suicide deaths range from a low of 7 in Holmes County to a high of 24 in Meigs County.

Locally, Trumbull County ranks 12th of 88 Ohio counties in suicides per capita, with 357 people dying by their own hand between 2009 and 2018 for a rate of 16.97 per 100,000 residents.

Mahoning County ranks 47th of 88 counties. Mahoning County saw 312 suicides during those same 10 years, but because of its larger population, its per capita rate is lower, at 13.06 per 100,000 residents.

The average annual rate of suicide deaths in Ohio over the 10-year period is around 14 per 100,000 residents.

Again, however, mental health experts warn the COVID-19 experience may push some people over the edge. What can we do to help them? Pay attention to changes in behavior in family and friends, reach out, listen without judgment and be supportive. Share resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

There has been a lot of talk that “we are all in this together” since March. Not everyone feels that way. We owe it to those who are struggling to let them know they are not alone.



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