Suicide rates in Ohio rose dramatically over the last decade for both people under 24 years old and people over 65, according to a new Ohio Department of Health report.
The new report found that Ohio’s overall suicide rate increased by 45% from 2008-2018. Now five people die by suicide every day in the state.
Health professionals like the department’s medical director Mark Hurst say they’re baffled by those numbers.
“You know, the things that we knew about suicide, and I would say ‘know’ in quotes, we really don’t know anymore," Hurst says.
Hurst says some of the reasons thought to have contributed to suicides in the past don't really fit now.
“We knew in the past that an improving economy was associated with a decreased suicide rate, but we have had unprecedented economic growth in the past 10 years, but we have seen an increase in the suicide rate over that period of time," Hurst says.
The suicide rate for Ohioans up to age 24 increased by 64% during the last decade, while it’s gone up nearly 50% for adults over 65. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among kids 10-14.
Hurst says the department is especially worried about suicide among young people. He says they're seeing an increased rate of mental illness in that age group, and suicide is often associated with depression and other mood disorders.
“I think it's really important to recognize that each of us have a role in suicide prevention,” Hurst says. “Any person knowing that at least one other person cares about their well-being can make a difference for that person and make a difference in them not attempting suicide.”
Hurst also emphasized the importance of screening and evidence-based treatments like psychotherapy. He says half of all individuals who die from suicide have seen a primary care physician within 30 days of their death.
“That is really an opportunity for us to identify people at risk and to intervene appropriately,” he says.
The report also found men are four times more likely than women to die by suicide. The state’s highest suicide rates are in Appalachian Ohio.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.