Portage County suicide cases spike in 2018

Suicide+Illustration

Suicide Illustration

Lydia Taylor

In 2018, Portage County had a stark increase in suicides — the most recorded in more than 20 years.

Last year, suicide accounted for 31 deaths, which is more than twice as many compared to the 13 who died in 2017.

“It’s the worst we’ve seen in a while,” said Wayne Enders, the Portage County Coroner’s Office administrative assistant. “It was just awful.”

RESOURCES IN PORTAGE COUNTY

Kent State Psychological Services: 330-672-2487

University Health Services 24-hour Nurse Line: 330-672-2326

Coleman Access Services: 330-296-3555

Townhall II Helpline: 866-449-8518

National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 800-273-TALK

The Trevor Helpline: Preventing Suicide Among LGBTQ Youth: 866-488-7386

Mental Health and Recovery Board crisis hotlines: 330-296-3555 or 330.678.4357

In September, there were nine suicides — a rare occurrence for a one-month period, Enders said.

Enders said although many of the deaths are concentrated in the 30 to 50 age range, there’s been more young adults dying by suicide.

“The deaths are all over the map, age-wise,” he said. “But a year or so ago, we saw a spike in younger ages, like 16-year-olds and 15-year-olds.”

Enders said there’s three main causes of suicide in Portage County: relationships, health and economy. Enders said in many cases, those who died were going through relationship issues, such as divorce or other family problems. Health can either be related to physical or mental illness; combined with relationships, quite a few suicides involved feelings of loneliness and depression. In terms of economy, it’s usually unemployment.

“The worst part is when there’s no warning signs — the spontaneous deaths that nobody sees coming,” he said.

The majority of the deaths are men — nine out of 10 suicides — but rates of women dying by suicide are steadily increasing each year, Enders said. 

“There have been over 300 suicides since (2001) in this county, and interestingly enough, there has been equally the same amount of deaths by accidental drug overdose,” Enders said. “It’s almost the same.” 

Since 2001, more than 600 people have died by both suicide and drug overdoses in Portage County.

“Many people think that those who consider or go through with suicide are mentally ill, and that’s not true at all,” he said. “There are some people that just get a thought, and it can happen. It’s spontaneous sometimes.”

Enders has been a member of the Portage County Suicide Prevention Coalition since it formed in 2004. The coalition aims to educate individuals on the warning signs and provide help, such as grief counseling or group counseling. It also has a group that meets regularly, called the Survivors of Suicide, for family and friends who lost a loved one.

Enders said the coalition also tries to battle the stigma surrounding suicide to make people feel more comfortable talking about the topic.

“It’s still a problem to this day,” he said. “People don’t want to talk about it, and it’s hard to talk about it because many people have a hard time coping with it. Suicide has become such a taboo in American culture, sort of along with the people who suffer with addiction.”

In Ohio, 1,740 people died by suicide in 2017, which is an increase from the 1,707 who died in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 1996 to 2006, Ohio’s suicide rate went up 36 percent, according to the CDC.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, with nearly 130 individuals dying by suicide each day, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Lydia Taylor is the Digital Content Editor. Contact her at [email protected]