Why is Ohio's suicide rate climbing and what can we do about it?

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, we are going to address suicide and the importance of awareness. Suicide is tragic and traumatizing. But, prevention, intervention, and postvention need to be consistently discussed in homes, schools, and communities. Whether city or country dwellers, suicide needs to be addressed. Countywide and statewide, suicide education needs to be at the forefront. A horrifying new report (*) that came out earlier in this year, revealing that Ohio's suicide rates have grown over the past decade and not by a slim margin. According to this study, there were 15,246 suicide deaths in Ohio over the 10-year span from 2008 to 2017. The research indicates the suicide rate within Ohio’s younger population (29 and younger) has increased by 33 percent since 2008. And between 2008 and 2017, 161 suicides occurred among those 14 years of age or younger.

Suicide Prevention awareness, education, and programming has certainly increased throughout Ohio in recent years… however, it’s not enough and statistics from the Ohio Violent Death Reporting System are still troubling:

  • Suicides make up 65% of Ohio’s violent deaths

  • Ohio loses roughly 5 people a day to suicide

  • Ohio’s suicide rate is above the national average at 13.5 deaths per 100,000 individuals

  • The majority of Ohio suicide deaths occur in adult men

  • The highest Ohio suicide rate occurs in older adult men (65+) with a rate of 38.6 per 100,000

  • Over 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of death

  • Ohio trends and statistics for youth suicides also demonstrate a need to strengthen suicide prevention efforts in the State.

So what can be done? In my professional opinion, more should be done in the schools to bring awareness to the importance of taking care of our mental health. Because children and teens spend most of their day at school, it just makes sense to have mental health awareness and education become part of the curriculum. When we empower students with knowledge, and encourage dialogue, students will be able to get the help they need. Schools, teachers and administrators can work to promote awareness with their students. Key elements to shine a light on include the concept of self-care and responsibility for one's own mental health and wellness, with an emphasis on the fact that mental health is an integral part of health, and the concept of recovery from mental illness. Teachers and students should be provided with ways to recognize signs of developing mental health problems, and there should be opportunities around the awareness and management of mental health crises, including the risk of suicide or self-harm. Further, instruction should address the relationship between mental health, substance abuse, and other negative coping behaviors, as well as the negative impact of stigma and cultural attitudes toward mental illness. And there's really no excuse to not make mental health a mandatory part of everyday curriculum. There are not-for-profit programs out there that will help guide schools on how to do this, and these programs often cost NOTHING or very little. So if our schools can add these programs for next to nothing, why isn't it happening? And if you are a school administrator, teacher, or parent and want to know how to find these programs, call us. We will tell you! So what can YOU do? BE AWARE OF THE WARNING SIGNS If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide, get the facts and take appropriate action. More importantly, get help immediately should you witness, hear, or see anyone exhibiting any one or more of the following:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking about wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.

  • Someone looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means.

  • Someone talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.

Possible warning signs:

  • Hopelessness

  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out

  • Increase alcohol or drug use

  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society

  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time

  • Dramatic mood changes

  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

WAYS TO BE HELPFUL TO SOMEONE WHO IS THREATENING SUICIDE

  • Be aware. Learn the warning signs.

  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.

  • Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.

  • Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.

  • Be willing to listen. Allow for expression of feelings. Accept the Feelings.

  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

  • Don’t dare him/her to do it.

  • Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else to tell them to behave differently.

  • Don’t ask ‘why’. This encourages defensiveness.

  • Offer empathy, not sympathy.

  • Don’t act shocked. This creates distance.

  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.

  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.

  • Take action! Remove means! Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.


If this is an emergency... Your life is extremely valuable, and people care about you. If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger of harming him or herself, please call 911 immediately. Stay on the phone with the operator and wait for help to arrive. Otherwise, if you have suicidal thoughts or feelings of complete hopelessness, please contact us or another mental health professional as soon as possible. You can also call the suicide hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE, 24 hours per day. Depression is a disorder that can be treated! Please reach out for help!

*A new study on suicide in Ohio was released by The Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health (the alliance includes 28 partner organizations). Additional resources for the study included the Bureau of Vital Statistics, the Ohio Death Certificate File and the Centers for Disease Control. The Ohio University’s College of Health Services and Professions summarized results in a news release.

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