Report: Rate of suicide climbing in Michigan

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA, LAKE COUNTIES — Mental health officials in the west central part of Michigan are concerned by the rising rate of suicide throughout the state and nationwide.

A report issued in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Michigan’s suicide rate increased by 33 percent from 1999 to 2016. That’s slightly higher than the 30 percent rate of increase nationally.

By total, the National Center for Health Statistics counted 36 deaths by suicide in Mecosta County (pop. 43,067) between 2012-16. In Osceola County (pop. 23,058), that figure was 19, and in Lake (population as of 2015: 11,424), it was 15.

While numbers aren’t available as to how much the suicide rate may or may not be climbing locally, Community Mental Health for Central Michigan Program Director Catherine Beagle said the statewide numbers are enough reason to be concerned. Beagle said at this point, the focus of public health should be on prevention and education, in order to bring the figures down.

“Hopefully, as a community, we can improve in the area of identifying people at risk of suicide and assisting them in receiving the help that they need,” Beagle said via email. “Asking someone if they are suicidal will not ’cause’ them to be suicidal. We also know that safety planning and means restriction (removing or securing the item which the individual has thought about using to harm themselves) can prevent a suicide.

“Additionally, teaching coping and problem-solving skills, and providing coordinated behavioral and physical healthcare, can also reduce the rates of suicide in our communities.”

Beagle attributed the relatively high figures in the tri-county area to be due to poverty, isolation and lack of mental health resources, among other issues.

According to the CDC, more than half of people who died by suicide in the U.S. did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Instead, the factors that most led to the suicide were relationship problems or loss, substance abuse, physical health problems and stress.

Firearms were the most common method of suicide used by those with and without a known diagnosed mental health condition, the CDC stated.

Beagle identified the following as “risk factors” for suicide: history of past attempts, current and past psychiatric disorders, family history, events that trigger painful reactions, a change in mental health treatment and access to firearms. She named symptoms including impulsivity, hopelessness, anxiety, panic and insomnia.

Beagle added there are a number of “protective factors” for suicide, as well, including the ability to cope with stress, religious beliefs and frustration tolerance. Responsibilities to living things, positive relationships and social supports can also help, she said.

Beagle suggested those in need of help can call Community Mental Health for Central Michigan at (231) 796-5825 in Mecosta County or (231) 832-2247 in Osceola County. They can also be reached on Facebook or at cmhcm.org.

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