The number of suicides in the last 6 months already have outpaced the number in all of last year in Lee County.
Lee County Coroner Jesse Partington cannot point to a driver behind people taking their own lives more frequently this year than in recent years. But he says the community must be willing to talk about suicide to prevent it.
From Dec. 1, to today, four people have committed suicide in Lee County. In 2012, three people took their own lives. And in both 2011 and 2010, six people committed suicide.
Suicides, especially among middle-aged folks, are up both in Illinois and across the country.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control shows that, between 1999 and 2010, a period that included the Great Recession, the suicide rate in Illinois among those ages 35 to 64 climbed nearly 19 percent, from 11 suicides per 100,000 people to 13 suicides per 100,000 people.
The report shows that, during the same time, the national rate for the same age group rose 28 percent. The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group; their suicide rate jumped 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.
The rates among younger and older people held steady.
Suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, according to the report.
Health officials say strategies for suicide prevention should address issues middle-aged Americans are likely to face, such as financial challenges, caregiver responsibilities for children and aging parents, and health problems.
Partington, who lose his aunt and uncle to murder-suicide in 2011, says the community must be willing to talk about suicide.
“But there is a stigma attached,” he admits. “People don’t like to talk about it. But the only way to educate people is to talk about it.”
Cheryl Robinson of Sterling, a certified suicide intervention trainer who lost her son to suicide in 2005, agrees.
“I think education is the key and just the willingness to listen and to talk to one another,” she says. “I think awareness helps, too. Not everyone who dies by suicide has mental health issues. People who are struggling oftentimes feel alone and don’t know how to reach out. We might think they need help because they give off invitations for help, but we don’t always recognize them as such.”
An upcoming, 2-day suicide intervention skills workshop is designed to equip people with the skills needed to recognize those invitations for help and talk to those who are depressed and possibly suicidal.
Robinson encourages people who, whether because of their role in the community (a police officer, an emergency-room nurse or a school counselor, for example) or because of their personality, might be attuned to cries for help from others.
“You hope you never have to use it, but if you have to, then you have the appropriate skills,” she says.
Robinson says the skills are applicable outside of crisis situations, too.
“You learn to be a better listener and to be more alert to the people around you.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Suicide intervention training
An Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 25 and 26 at the Whiteside Area Career Center, 1608 Fifth Ave. in Sterling. Cost is $100 and includes breakfast and lunch on both days of the workshop. Go to www.nwilroepd.org to register; the deadline is Friday.
Contact Cheryl Robinson at 815-499-1655 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By the numbers
Suicides in Lee County:
• 2008: 5
• 2009: 8
• 2010: 6
• 2011: 6
• 2012: 4
• Dec. 1, 2012-present: 4
Source: Coroner Jesse Partington
Suicides per 100,000 residents, 2000-2009*:
• Statewide: 8.5
• Lee County: 13.8
• Whiteside County: 11.5
• Ogle County: 9.3
• Carroll County: 9.3
• Bureau County: 11.9
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
*2009 is the most recent year for which 10-year data is available
Other suicide resources
• Sinnissippi Centers Crisis Line, a 24-hour toll-free number for those with mental health crises, 800-242-7642.
• The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour toll-free number for those considering suicide, 800-273-TALK (8255).
• I Need a LightHouse, a depression and suicide education awareness program, www.ineedalighthouse.org.
• The Touched by Suicide support group meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of the month at Hospice of the Rock River Valley, 264 state Route 2, Dixon. Call Kim at 815-438-2345 or 815-535-3402 for more information.