Rock County suicides nearly double
The suicide hotline is 1-800-SUICIDE, and the Rock County Crisis Line is (608) 757-5025.
JANESVILLE Unemployment and money problems are among the reasons suicides have nearly doubled in Rock County in two years, the Rock County coroner said Wednesday.
Twenty-eight Rock County residents committed suicide in 2010, compared to 23 in 2009 and 15 in 2008, when the unemployment rate first began to rise, Coroner Jenifer Keach said.
The suicide rate is showing no signs of slowing, with eight suicides already this year, putting the county on pace for 32 in 2011, she said. Many of the suicides were men in their prime wage-earning years.
“We were seeing a lot of them who had just lost their jobs or were unemployed and couldn’t find work,” she said. “For a lot of people, right now, financial pressure is just huge.”
The coroner’s office interviews spouses, parents or adult children during death investigations such as suicides. Many family members said money problems were partially to blame for suicides, Keach said.
“They tell me there was a feeling of hopelessness, of giving up, after a job was lost,” she said.
Economic problems weren’t the only reasons people might have committed suicide, Keach said. Marital conflict, depression and drugs or alcohol were contributing factors in some cases.
Unemployment often puts stress on families and marriages, Keach said. Debt can accrue, and foreclosures are issues.
Often, money problems can deepen depression or aggravate other forms of mental illness, she said. Some people are afraid to get help.
“Mental illness still has a little bit of a stigma to it, unfortunately,” Keach said.
The coroner’s office hopes to curb the problem with a new “safety series” on suicide prevention and awareness.
Volunteer Deputy Coroner Tony Farrell Sr. will give presentations to schools, civic groups and others to help prevent suicides. The presentation is intended to help people recognize the signs leading up to suicide so they can help others.
Farrell began giving weekly presentations in January.
“When our office is called, it’s too late. They’ve ended their life, but maybe through these particular presentations we’ve had, maybe people will talk to others,” Farrell said.
During the presentation, people learn about common risk factors and warning signs. People are given suggestions for helping others at risk.
Farrell said he has talked after his presentations to three people thinking about suicide.
“I do know that I’ve three saves, and I feel good about that, although I don’t know if they were going to complete the act,” he said.
Keach and Farrell want to reduce the number of suicides, and they hope the new program helps. They said people need resources.
“I’m very concerned that it’s going to stay on pace or get worse,” Keach said. “Lets face it, with government budgets the way they are, the money is not going to be there to start new programs. We really have to rely on community based programs.”