The Herald Bulletin

June 16, 2013

Editorial: Suicide is a scourge in county, but there is help available

— As Tolstoy began “Anna Karenina,” “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same goes for individuals, and the reasons people end their lives are as varied as the individual who takes the desperate act.

In today’s edition, reporter Baylee Pulliam takes a look at suicide in Madison County and finds the county has one of the highest suicide rates in Indiana. There are numerous explanations as to why someone is driven to such desperation. Reasons could be depression, terminal illness, overwhelming stress, poverty, unemployment or a host of others as to why the individual feels the only way out is to end her life. They are unhappy in their own way.

Unhappiness may not be the root cause of suicides — humans are infinitely more complex than that — but it might be a factor. When life gets overwhelmingly negative, people know that there is one final escape. Since we’ve seen an increase in military suicides, why does the soldier take his life? Is it because he lives with death every day and finally the stress becomes too much, or does he come home and find the tedium of life away from the battlefield more than he can bear?

Why does a young mother decide to end it all and take her kids with her? Is it poverty, loneliness or a feeling of not being able to cope? Is it mental illness that thinks of suicide as an alternative to the weight of life’s problems?

Why does the old man, who has lost his wife and friends and finds himself facing a terminal illness, decide to hasten his demise?

USA Today recently had an opinion piece that wondered if life is not as valuable to people anymore, hence the rise in suicide rates.

Many questions but few answers, even by the most experienced mental health professionals.

In 2010, the most recent year for which figures are available, Madison County had 28 suicides. There has been nearly a steady rise in county suicides since 2002 with the curious exception of 2007 when only 12 people took their lives. The following year, the total jumped to 26.

The county’s suicide rate for 2010 was 20.73 compared to East Central Indiana’s rate of 14.2. Both the county and ECI have been on the increase since 2008, and that was the year the Great Recession began with the loss of jobs and massive foreclosures.

The economic situation might have had something to do with certain individuals ending it all, but not everyone.

People who feel they have reached their breaking point need to seek help, and there is plenty of help available in the county. It’s a matter of recognizing not only that a problem exists, but that it can’t be solved by individual effort. It will take help to change course. Only when people recognize these problems will they be able to do something about it.

This high rate of suicide rate in the county is as inexplicable as it is disturbing. Living in a society that preaches self-reliance and still shows disdain for people who cannot bring themselves under control can, in itself, lead to problems. But those with the troubles must reach out to others. Unless they want to die and many do.

For those who are silently screaming for help, though, we must make a better effort to recognize them and offer that help. It’s what we owe each other.


POLL QUESTION Do you understand someone who has committed suicide? Yes, sometimes it gets too tough No, there is always help available