ODH: Suicide a growing public health epidemic

What to ask, say, do

AIM Media Midwest



In Ohio, five people die by suicide every day, and one youth dies by suicide every 33 hours, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).

In 2018, there were 1,836 suicides in Ohio and the highest suicide rate — the number of suicide deaths per 100,000 population — was among adults 45 to 64 years old.

Males are disproportionately burdened by suicide across the lifespan, and their suicide rate is nearly four times the rate among females.

“One of the goals of my RecoveryOhio initiative is to address mental illness and other issues that contribute to suicide,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said. “If you know someone is struggling, you may be able to help save someone’s life by recognizing the warning signs and steps to take.”

“Suicide in Ohio and nationally is a growing public health epidemic, particularly among young people,” said ODH Director Amy Acton, M.D. “Suicide is the leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 10 to 14 and the second leading cause of death among Ohioans ages 15 to 34.”

Highland County Coroner Jeff Beery told The Times-Gazette that as of Nov. 25, there have been eight suicides in Highland County this year, which is an increase since 2013, when the coroner saw six deaths by suicide.

Look for warning signs

Warning signs of suicide include:

• A major change in mood or behavior, appearing consistently unhappy/depressed, irritable, withdrawn from family or friends. Tommy Koopman, deputy director of Prevention and Wellness at Mental Health Recovery Services of Warren & Clinton Counties, told AIM Media Midwest that changes in mood don’t always mean from good mood to bad mood. “It’s not just a sudden solace or somber mood. They may actually look like they’re better because they’ve made a decision,” said Koopman.

• Poor grades in school or other bad performance in extracurricular activities.

• High-risk behaviors, including use of alcohol or other substances.

• Problems with concentration, and changes in energy level, appetite or sleep schedule.

• Expressing feelings of hopeless or not wanting to live anymore.

• Hurting themselves (e.g., wrist-cutting, burning self).

• History of depression or family history of depression.

In May, Solutions Community Counseling and Recovery Center in Wilmington held a special class on suicide prevention called QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer.).

“A lot of people don’t feel comfortable talking about suicide. It’s kind of a hush word,” said Keersten Lindeman, one of the QPR presenters. “There’s also a stigma wrapped around suicide. And sometimes people are ‘shameful’ to talk about it or they’re scared to tell their parents because they don’t want to bring shame to their family.”

Another presenter, Tazeen Ahmed, talked about how use of the phrase “committing suicide” makes it sound similar to “committing a crime.”

What to say, ask

Among the other things they highlighted included being respectful when asking about how the suicidal subject is feeling, not making the conversation about you, and giving plenty of time to talk, and have resources handy.

The two indicated several ways to not ask the individual, including, “You’re not suicidal are you?” and “You’re not going to do something crazy, are you?”

“It’s important to make sure you’re not blaming them or judging them,” said Lindeman. “You want to ask them in a kind way to show that you’re there for them.”

What to do

If someone you know is showing signs of suicide, here are some things you can do:

• Ask directly about thoughts of suicide (asking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide but does open up conversation).

• Listen to what they need.

• Keep them safe by keeping lethal means away from them.

• Call 911 if necessary.

• Help them connect with ongoing support, such as a local crisis line, the National Suicide Prevention Life line (1-800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line (text “4hope” to 741-741).

• Check back the next day to see how they are doing.

• Encourage them to seek out a counselor for more help.

More on the report

Other numbers in the ODH report include:

From 2007 to 2018 the number of suicide deaths increased nearly 45 percent in Ohio.

Suicide rates are highest among white, non-Hispanic males.

From 2007 to 2018 the number of suicides among youth ages 10 to 24 increased by 56 percent. In 2018, 271 of Ohio’s suicide deaths were in this age group.

From 2014 to 2018 the suicide rate among black non-Hispanic males increased nearly 54 percent.

From 2007 to 2018 the suicide rate among older adults 65 and up increased nearly 48 percent.

Gov. DeWine created the RecoveryOhio initiative and a RecoveryOhio Advisory Council that includes a diverse group of individuals who have worked to address mental illness and substance use issues in prevention, treatment, advocacy, or support services; government; private industry; law enforcement; health care; learning institutions; and faith organizations.

In an initial report, the council issued more than 70 recommendations in the areas of stigma, parity, workforce development, prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery supports, and data and outcomes measurement.

Information and resources on where to get help are available at RecoveryOhio.gov.

For suicide prevention information and resources, go to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services website at mha.ohio.gov.

McKenzie Caldwell from The Times-Gazette contributed to this story.

What to ask, say, do

AIM Media Midwest