Suicides Continue Rising in Ohio During the Covid Pandemic
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What is the point?
I forgot to pay the bills again. When was the last time I replied to a text from my mom? Not like it really matters anyway.
The last time I washed my hair was… Tuesday. No, Saturday maybe? I can’t remember.
But, what’s the point anyway?
These days, they seem to never end. Day and night no longer exist, they are all the same. It’s all grey. At times, I feel entirely unseen by the world. Other times, I feel exposed, vulnerable. But why?
It feels like I am finally reaching the breaking point. There is no hope and nowhere else to turn, but to the end. I just keep thinking… What is the point?
More people than we realize are also having these thoughts. Known as intrusive thoughts. They lead us to places that we never thought we would be mentally.
You may find yourself planning and making peace with the decision you have come to in silence, because it seems like there is nobody out there that wants to hear you.
Many of us, when faced with the crippling battle of mental health in depression or anxiety, keep our feelings closed and locked away in fear of judgment from the outside world. We find ourselves battling our minds because of outside factors like unemployment, loneliness, or trauma that make us feel forgotten as the world continues spinning faster.
It is important to know today, that hope is out there despite what it seems the world around us signifies.
You Are Not Alone, Buckeyes
Millions of Americans are battling mental health disorders daily in the United States. According to the North American Mental Institution (NAMI), approximately 20 percent of Americans live with some type of mental illness. One in every 25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness.
This, compounded with societal factors in communities throughout the country, has led to a continued rise in rates of suicide.
In 2018, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 48,000 people. It was the second leading cause of death for people between ages 10-34 and for people aged 35-54, it was the fourth leading cause of death.
While homicides claim the most news coverage, suicides (48,344) took 2.6 times more lives than homicides (18,830).
In Ohio alone, suicide rates have spiraled out of control over the course of the past decade. Between 2007-18, suicides increased 45 percent among all Ohioans and an unfortunate 56 percent among youth between 10-24 years old.
The same report from the Ohio Department of Health found that most suicides in Ohio occurred for those aged 45-64 years old and affected Caucasian males more so than anyone else. The rate in 2018 of white males that commit suicide stood at 26.9 per 100,000 people. The national average across the entire population is near 14 deaths per 100,000.
While suicide rates per capita continue to spiral, the research also showed the urban areas are being affected substantially. In the case of African American males, the rate of suicide rose 53.8 percent in the past decade.
The rates of suicide in rural areas of the state are by far the worst. Thirty-seven Ohio counties are above the national average of 14 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. Seven of the top 10 counties in suicides per capita have a population less than 50,000, according to the report from the Ohio Department of Health.
The worst of those counties are fairly close in area—most in the southeast corner of the state.
Data: Meigs County Leads the State in Suicide Rate
The Ohio County with the highest rate of suicides per capita is the southeastern county of Meigs. In 2018, 24.1 people per 100,000 died by suicide in this county—10 more than the national average.
Meigs County has a population of just over 23,000 and sits on the border between Ohio and West Virginia. The county falls below the median household income and per capita income for both Ohio and the United States. The average worker must drive approximately 33.7 minutes to their place of employment daily, showing a lack of employment in the area.
One out of every five residents of Meigs County falls below the poverty line.
In bordering West Virginia, which has the eighth highest per capita suicide rate in the country and the highest rate of any state east of the Mississippi River, it makes sense that Meigs County ranks highest in suicides for Ohio. Many of the residents work and spend a lot of time across the border.
Meigs County Coroner Investigator Susan Mansfield is an elected official within the county that is responsible for investigating deaths in the county, as required by law. Mansfield sees firsthand how a single suicide effects the small community, and specifically the children left behind in many cases.
“A suicide greatly impacts our community,” Mansfield said. “From the grieving family and friends, to the child welfare system. We do not have enough foster caregivers. Not even close. Children left behind are sent to other counties. They not only lose the parent but have to deal with changing to a new school and having no friends to support them.”
According to adoptuskids.org, there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. There are, as of February 2020, more than 16,000 children in foster care in Ohio alone.
Mansfield remembers a specific situation that weighs heavily on her to this day.
“Two years ago on Christmas day, a suicide left three little girls under age five without a father,” Mansfield said. “The mother shortly thereafter lost custody and wound up incarcerated.”
“Unfortunately, mental health is seen mostly as a weakness to the general population and many do not seek help, but local law enforcement is trying,” Mansfield said. “One thing that I do think has helped is that all of the law enforcement officers in our county have had crisis intervention training (CIT) and are better equipped to defuse tense situations. They make referrals to a local mental health organization.”
However, Mansfield says that in their community, often the person needing help does not follow through with treatment.
Why, Oh, Why, Ohio?
While our state is full of bustling metropolitan areas, there is still a large population of Ohioans in rural areas of the state that do not have direct and easy access to mental health care.
As travel times are already longer for rural Americans to reach care, the events of the past year have compounded the difficulties faced in receiving treatment. With the coronavirus pandemic, many Ohioans were forced to stay home and quarantine to stop the spread of the deadly virus. While this assisted in saving lives from the virus, it also likely caused an unfortunate loss of life because of suicide.
Studies have shown there is a direct link between feelings of loneliness and suicide. As Americans did their part to stay inside, many individuals lost their last piece of communication.
The trend of lacking communication has been evident for more than a decade now as the world becomes more interconnected through technology and social media. As many Americans opt for a night in and scrolling through Facebook, the option of leaving the house occasionally for social time was taken away this past year.
These factors from the COVID-19 response were joined by the economic downshift the country felt in 2020.
Between February and April in 2020, more than 13 percent of Ohio’s workforce became newly unemployed. The highest the unemployment rate hit in the state was in April at 17.6 percent. In November 2020, the rate remains at 5.7 percent.
Research from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs found that unemployment can be detrimental to mental health and can be associated to suicide rates among veterans, but also the general population.
The research and work from the Department of Veteran Affairs has also done extensive research into the mental health of veterans.
Veterans are at a heightened risk of suicide to the tune of a 41 percent increase while deployed and 61 percent when not deployed, according to their findings.
The American Psychological Association also notes the importance of the fact that 44 percent of veterans return home to a rural zip code, adding to an already increased risk without nearby treatment options.
As of 2014, Ohio’s veterans population ranks sixth in the country in total at 866,000. The number is expected to be higher at next count.
It is also very important to know that while there has been a great effort put forth to break stigma and create opportunities for those struggling with thoughts of suicide, funding and awareness have fallen behind other causes.
A 2018 USA Today report found that the National Institutes of Health, the largest funder of biomedical research in the entire world, spent $68 million on suicide in 2016. While that number seems astronomical, there was five times more spent on studying sleep and 10 times more spent on studying breast cancer. Both sleep disorders and breast cancer have caused fewer deaths in a given year than suicide.
It does not take wild conspiracy theory-like thoughts to figure that much of the $68 million was not spent on rural communities.
We Can Break the Trend Together in Our Schools and County
As Susan Mansfield mentioned above about her county of Ohio, the general population still sees mental health issues as a sign of weakness despite the growing awareness surrounding the cause.
The history of rugged individualism in rural areas has led to the issues of high rates of suicide in their communities. In most instances in the state and throughout the country, there is not an immediate answer to breaking stigma surrounding both mental health and suicide, but beginning dialogue today will make a difference.
Psychiatric research shows that in cases of suicide attempted from mental illness, the individual that attempted suicide will face an even tougher journey afterwards due to stigma related to both issues.
The same research says that in general, Americans believe that there is less hope for recovery for a person that attempted suicide than one that has not.
Starting conversations about the effectiveness of seeking help when you do not feel okay is a must, and it must start today.
It is also important that treatment facilities take advantage of the age of technology that we live in to reach those in rural communities. A great opportunity for this lies in telehealth.
As we traverse the coronavirus pandemic, telehealth has taken off in a much bigger way than has ever been seen before. Those—like Sun Behavioral Health in Columbus—that were prepared to use telehealth in treatment were able to seamlessly help those in need last year and to continue helping those out of reach in 2021.
Using Telehealth Is Effective
It is important to know that studies surrounding telehealth and video/phone calls for mental health counseling and treatment show that those options have been found effective.
SUN Behavioral Columbus has many forms of telehealth solutions for whatever circumstances you’re going through.
Our admissions process starts with a no-cost, virtual consultation with an admissions specialist to determine what course of mental health care treatment would be best for you.
Sun also offers telehealth outpatient services. After finding the correct path for you through the complimentary consultation, your course of treatment can be determined, and there are paths to treatment that can be done entirely virtually.
Call Sun Behavioral in Columbus Today
Struggling with a mental illness is not easy. When faced with a mental health condition, we are impacted emotionally, mentally, even physically.
Sun Behavioral exists to provide masterful care to treat these conditions and set clients back on the right track.
Every year, more people are diagnosed with mental health conditions like depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and more. Even though millions of others are facing these same challenges, this can feel like a very confusing and lonely time. It is important to always remember that you are not alone!
There are places to turn when you reach the point that suicide has become an option for you. If you or a loved one are facing these challenges, Sun Behavioral Health in Columbus is here to help.
On top of their successful telehealth program, Sun offers programs for mental health, substance use, and even offers programs that are specifically catered to an individual’s age group with the adolescent program, older adults program, and adult mental health program.
At SUN, you or your loved one will receive caring treatment and be given care far after treatment time in our facilities. Please call today at 614-706-2786 for help.
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