In Tennessee, an estimated 800 men, women, and children die by suicide each year. More people die by suicide each year than from homicide, AIDS, or drunk driving. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 15-24 in Tennessee and throughout the entire nation.
In order to bring attention to the urgency of the problem, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has set aside September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Tennessee.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were nine recorded suicides in DeKalb County during 2008, at a rate of 48.1 per 100,000 people. That's the highest rate among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland and third highest in the state. Only Grundy and Benton County had a higher rate per 100,000 persons. The actual number of suicides in DeKalb County, at nine, is the third most in the Upper Cumberland behind Putnam and Cumberland, each with 10. Of the 95 counties in the state, 27 had a higher number of suicides than DeKalb. Three other counties had the same number as DeKalb at nine, but the rate per 100,000 persons in those three counties, Coffee, Dickson, and Hamblen was much lower.
Statewide, the Tennessee Department of Health reports 965 recorded suicide deaths for 2008, at a rate of 15.7 per 100,000 people. Both this number and the rate are the highest ever recorded for Tennessee. The last national rankings, published in 2007 by the American Association of Suicidology, placed Tennessee at 20th in the nation for suicides.
Suicide can happen to anyone, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. Most victims suffer from depression, which afflicts more than 17 million Americans yearly. When the spiral of isolation and misery is left unchecked, suicide may appear to be the only answer, and the solitary and self-defeating nature of this illness can impede a person's ability or desire to get help. But with the proper diagnosis and treatment of depression, suicide and the terrible toll it takes is preventable.
In almost all cases, suicide can be traced to unrecognized, untreated, or poorly treated mental illness, according to the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. It can happen to people of either gender, any race or ethnicity, and any economic status. The average suicide death leaves behind six survivors—family and friends of the deceased—all of who are at increased risk for a suicide attempt themselves. As if the emotional and psychological toll were not enough, suicide and suicide attempts cost the state of Tennessee $1 billion a year in medical treatment, lost wages, and lost productivity.
The best solutions to the problem of suicide are pro-active, not reactive. Individuals struggling with suicidal impulses need to know that people care about their situation, and they need access to community mental health resources. Most suicides are preventable, and through public discourse, education, and awareness, each person can play a part in reducing the frequency of suicide in our communities. With compassion and courage, each person can give a loved one hope in time of despair.
TSPN, along with other state and civic agencies, are joining forces to recognize the month of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
More information about local and statewide Suicide Prevention Awareness Month events are available on the TSPN website (www.tspn.org). Additional information on these events and TSPN is available from the TSPN central office at (615) 297-1077.