The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

June 16, 2013

'We cannot ignore this'

Health officials on suicide and why Madison County's rate is so high

ANDERSON, Ind. — Emily Marshall was sinking.

Hours weren’t steady at work. Her post-traumatic stress, bipolar and other mental health disorders were difficult for others to understand. And, coupled with her medical problems, they added up to huge bills.

“I felt like nobody cared; like there was no hope,” said Marshall, of Muncie. “I wanted it all to go away.”

She thought about numbing the pain with pills — too many — then slipping into a deep sleep and never waking up. How easy it would be. How liberating. How simple.

But when she spoke with her husband, James, he pulled her back. “When she said she was thinking about it, I said, ‘We’re going to the hospital,’” he said. Emily was put on a 72-hour suicide hold.

Hers isn’t an uncommon story. In 2010, the most recent year for which statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are available, nearly one million Americans attempted suicide — one every 32 seconds.

And they’re the lucky ones. Of those attempts, 38,364 were successful. That’s 105 people per day, and at least one by the time you’ve finished reading this story.

The statistics weigh heavier in Madison County, where 28 people committed suicide in 2010. The county’s rate was nearly double the national average — roughly 21 per capita.

“We cannot ignore this and go around with blindfolds on,” said Anthony Malone, president of the Madison County Community Health Center. “Many people, when they look at these numbers, just shake their heads because they don’t understand. The question is: Can we afford that?”

There’s no saying for sure why Madison County’s numbers are so high, but one factor could be an above-average unemployment rate. It soared as high as 12.7 percent in 2010, the same year the county’s suicide rate spiked.

“In this area, there’s a huge loss of income (and) people out of work,” said the Marshalls’ doctor, Sharon McNeany, an adjunct professor at Ball State University and director of behavioral health and psychological services at MCCHC. “That puts financial stress on the family, if their basic needs aren’t being met — clothes, home, food.”

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