Suicide rates expected to increase after 2020

Cassidy Gladieux Reporter

If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24/7. The service is available to anyone and all calls are confidential.

In Ohio, five people die from suicide every day. According to the Ohio Department of Health, there was a 64.4 percent increase in the rate of suicide among 10- to 24-year-olds from 2007 to 2018. Because data can take up to two years to compile and verify, we have yet to see the impact that 2020 had on suicide rates; however, professionals are worried about the results.

“We are seeing more folks with depression and anxiety and honestly this year makes me more nervous than last year,” said Tony Coder, the executive director at the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “Now that [COVID-19] is coming to an end, people’s anxieties are going to probably escalate a little more, the depression might be a little heavier and so I’m a little bit more worried about this year than I was last year.”

COVID-19 isn’t the only factor influencing rates. Factors such as social disruption, socio-political injustices, access to lethal means and economic stressors can all contribute. 

“We know that anyone who’s made to feel invalid for who they are, whether that’s race, sexual orientation, gender identity — these are big risk factors,” said John Ackerman, the suicide prevention coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. 

Right before the pandemic hit, Gov. Mike DeWine created the Suicide Prevention Plan for Ohio in February 2020. The initiative aims to reduce suicide deaths by 10 percent over the next three years, reduce the number of attempted suicides and improve early identification and intervention for those at risk for suicide. 

“We’re also starting some new initiatives working with both the Ohio Department of Education and higher education to get resources and information into schools as well,” said Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health. 

Some of those initiatives are Sources of Strength, Be Present Ohio and the Ohio Crisis Text Line that all work to reduce suicide, increase awareness and promote conversation. 

In Portage County, telehealth has been a beneficial addition for people seeking mental health services and resources.

“The state made an emergency change to allow different behavioral health services be delivered through telehealth,” said Karyn Kravetz, the associate director at the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County. “All our agencies stayed open, people were able to get help and we’re really hoping that it will continue because it’s been very successful.”

Despite increasing mental health services available, suicide rates have been on the rise in Portage County in the past three years. In 2019, there were 24 deaths related to suicide and in 2020 there were 26. Kravitz believes this increase is in direct relation to the ongoing opioid epidemic that Ohio faces. 

“These are very high numbers for Portage County, which unfortunately our numbers started to get high these past several years, kind of going along with the opioid epidemic,” Kravitz said. 

The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County supports a variety of coalitions and programs such as the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Portage County that works to increase awareness, reduce stigma and provide support. In addition, the Portage Substance Abuse Community Coalition is “dedicated to preventing and treating substance use disorders and advocating for funds and policy to address addiction.” 

In addition to the Mental Health Recovery Board of Portage County, there are multiple other resources available to people of all ages in Ohio and Portage County. 

Being able to access the right resources is just as important as being able to recognize the signs of suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, below are some signs that someone may be thinking about suicide. 

  • Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves

  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless or having no reason to live

  • Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)

  • Talking about great guilt or shame

  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

A full list of resources and warning signs can be found here

Cassidy Gladieux is the mental health reporter. Contact her at [email protected]