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CJN-MMA

Special report

May 26, 2010

Suicides are on rise in Clermont County By John Seney jseney@communitypress.com

By the numbers

Suicides are on the rise in Clermont County. The total of confirmed cases rose to 39 in 2009, up from 29 in 2008, according to Lee Ann Watson, associate director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board. In 2007, there were 22 suicides in the county, and in 2006, 14. This year, there have been eight, as of May 4. She said 2009 “was a really bad year.” Watson said the actual number of suicides might be h i g h e r because many suicide deaths are ruled Watson accidental overdoses. Also, Clermont County residents who complete suicides in other counties are not counted in these statistics. Mental health professionals are stepping up their efforts to cut the suicide rate. “People need to realize there is help out there,” Watson said. A suicide prevention hotline is available 24/7 at 528-SAVE. The hotline is staffed by mental health professionals. “People can call if they are experiencing a difficult time. You don’t have to be suicidal,” Watson said. Watson said schoolbased mental health pro-

High school students attend a youth summit on suicide prevention April 16 at UC Clermont College. grams are trying to raise awareness among young people. A youth summit on suicide prevention April 16 at UC Clermont College was attended by 180 students representing each high school in Clermont County, including Loveland. Dennis Virginia Dennis, prevention coordinator for Mental Health

America of Southwest Ohio, said the purpose of the summit was to get ideas about how to deal with teen suicide. Dennis said national surveys indicate 27 percent of high school students have thought about suicide and eight percent have made an attempt. “The professionals are looking to you guys to get information,” Dennis told the students at the summit. “We want you guys to give us the scoop.” The students talked

JOHN SENEY/STAFF

about suicide in small group sessions and then filled out surveys. The information collected was compiled and will be presented at a town hall meeting in the fall. Some of the topics discussed included the stigma of suicide, why teens might attempt suicide and bullying. Bullying was attributed as one of the factors leading to the suicide of a Glen Este cheerleader several years ago. Dennis, who was part of

Of the 39 suicides that occurred in Clermont County in 2009, 32 were by men and seven by women. The age group with the most suicides was 11 by those between age 40 and 49. Eighteen of the suicides, almost half, were by those between age 31 and 49. Lee Ann Watson, associate director of the Clermont County

Mental Health and Recovery Board, said more middle-aged men are completing suicide, a trend she said could be tied to the economy. The statistics show suicides by young people also continue to rise. For those between the ages of 13 and 30, there were 10 suicides in 2009, nine in 2008 and four in 2007.

the crisis response team sent to the school after that suicide, said the girl had been friends with one group of students and then began hanging out with another group of students. She said there were indications she was feeling pressure from the former group of friends. The crisis team also found the girl was showing signs of depression leading up to the suicide, including declining grades, Dennis said. Jayne Wessel of Monroe Township is one parent who lost a young person to suicide. Her son, Aaron, was 20 at the time, six weeks short of his 21st birthday. He would have been a senior at Cleveland State University, having transferred his junior year from the University of Cincinnati. He was a graduate of New Richmond High School. “He was doing really well in school,” Wessel said. “He was an ‘A’ student.” Wessel said Aaron was sitting at their kitchen table one Sunday afternoon in

June 2006. A sheriff’s deputy pulled into the driveway Monday to tell the Wessels their son had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left no note or any indication he was contemplating suicide. “No one had an inkling,” she said. After Aaron’s death, Wessel and her husband Mike attended support groups and met with others who lost children to suicide. “We hear this story all the time,” she said. “It’s so frightening.” She said the support groups are helpful “knowing you aren’t the only ones experiencing this.” Wessel supports efforts like the youth summit. “Education is huge,” she said. Wessel said she believes help lines, crisis response teams and any other interventions are necessary and save lives. “I wish that Aaron had called a help line, a friend or anyone. Perhaps he would still be with us,” she said.

Economy may be taking toll on older men By John Seney jseney@communitypress.com

Suicide affects all age groups, but in the last several years, statistics point to more middle-aged men taking their own lives. “We can’t know for sure, but it is most likely tied to the economy,” said Lee Ann Watson, associate director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board. Of the 39 confirmed suicides in Clermont County in 2009, 18 were by people between the ages

of 31 and 49. Men accounted for 32 of the 39 suicides. Debra Clancy’s husband took his life 14 years ago when they was living in Massachusetts with three young children. Her husband was 31 years old at the time and had a history of mental illness. Clancy has since remarried and moved to Loveland. “It will always be a lifelong journey,” she said. “I am trying to make a difference rather than sweep it under the carpet.” Clancy is active in the local

chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and is willing to tell her story “to anyone who will listen.” Since her husband’s death, she has learned a lot about mental illness. “He would never go for help or accept that there was something wrong,” she said. Her husband had a lot of high expectations of himself he felt he was unable to accomplish. After years of threats, he took his own life. Clancy said she had to deal

with the guilt of what she could of done to prevent his death, though she has since realized “there wasn’t anything I could have done.” Although her husband’s death probably was the result of his own mental problems rather than economic conditions, the stress of raising and supporting a young family could have been a contributing factor, she said. Clancy said the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers programs for those at risk of suicide and their families. The group’s national Web site is

Clermont suicides by age group

Age 2009 2008 2007 13-20 4 4 2 21-30 6 5 2 31-39 7 6 3 40-49 11 7 6 50-59 4 4 4 60-69 3 2 0 70-79 1 0 1 80+ 3 1 4 Total 39 29 22 Source: Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board www.afsp.org and the local chapter’s site is www.afsp.org/cincinnati.

Social media can provide suicide warning signs By John Seney jseney@communitypress.com

Young people today convey their thoughts and feelings to their friends via social media like Facebook. That is often the case when those thoughts turn to suicide. Lee Ann Watson, associate director of the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said she has heard of recent cases where young people who committed suicide announced their intentions through social media. “It is happening,” she said. “It’s very sad.” A recent case involved a Loveland teenager who announced his intentions on social media before completing suicide. Virginia Dennis, prevention coordinator for Mental Health America of Southwest Ohio, said a

Hamilton County crisis team was sent to Loveland High School to counsel students. Because of the suicide, 22 students from Loveland High School were invited to attend a youth summit on suicide prevention April 16 at UC Clermont College. Dennis said the summit originally was intended just for high schools in Clermont County. Although Loveland High School is in Hamilton County, many of its students live in Clermont County. “I thought it was a really good idea to add them,” she said. Another case involving texting occurred after a suicide by a Felicity-Franklin High School student last year. A couple of the student’s friends were texting each other “If he can’t make it, neither can I,” said Guy Hopkins, FelicityFranklin principal. The students who were texting

Some of the warning signs include: Previous suicide attempts, feelings of helplessness, talking or writing about suicide, suffering a significant loss, sudden improvement after a period of depression, withdrawal from friends or school discipline problems. were counseled by school personnel with the help of the crisis team, Hopkins said. Randy Silar, a psychologist with the Clermont County Educational Service Center, was part of the crisis response team that visited Felicity-Franklin after the suicide. He said it was not uncommon after a suicide for friends of the

victim to contemplate suicide. “One of the primary things we do is to prevent contagion,” he said. Silar said the team passed out literature at the school, detailing warning signs of suicide. Some of them included: Previous suicide attempts, feelings of helplessness, talking or writing about suicide, suffering a significant loss, sudden improvement after a period of depression, withdrawal from friends or school discipline problems. Dennis is not surprised young people use social media to talk about suicide. “That’s how they talk to each other about everything,” she said. In one sense it can be a positive, she said, because youth are opening up and talking about their problems. A suicide can be prevented “if you pay attention to the warning signs.”

Dennis said social media is addressed now when suicide prevention programs go into the schools. “We talk about ‘what happens when you see this message?’” She said one example shows how communication can prevent a suicide. A couple of students at Milford High School got a message from a friend who was thinking about suicide. The two friends went to a teacher. “She (the teacher) called me,” Dennis said. “We worked together and got him help. I think with education and awareness it does make a huge difference.” Watson said the best way to deal with the problem is to educate young people to look for warning signs. “If you see something, tell somebody, tell an adult,” she said.

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