Increase in suicide stumps authorities

Unraveling an increase in suicide isn’t particularly hard. One need only look at La Crosse County in Wisconsin where authorities have tallied up the number of people who took their own lives in 2017. Twenty-four, the La Crosse Tribune reports today.

The medical examiner in the county was reportedly at a loss to explain it.

Perhaps Judy Shoults, a member of the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative, has provided a clue.

“Maybe people are just not reaching out,” she said. “It’s the same old same old, so we just have to keep plugging. But sometimes, if they call to get help, they get put on a waiting list.”

A waiting list?

The burden has long been placed on people with mental health issues to reach out. Who hasn’t heard “if only he/she had asked for help” in the wake of a suicide? We’ve also been conditioned to believe the problem is that people are ashamed to ask for help. Maybe so, but too often, people who ask for help aren’t getting it, and the consequences for the broken promise is suicide.

“I do see people being more compassionate, and people are talking,” she said.

We’re 9 days into the new year. There’s already been one suicide in the county.

Related: New Trump order focused on preventing suicide among new vets (Military Times)

  • Ben Chorn

    A year and a half or so ago someone I knew from my childhood (boy scouts, band, etc.) I found was also living in Chicago. We talked a little on Facebook but never made plans to meet up. He seemed really busy and traveled, and I also ended up getting extremely busy. A few months ago he lost his job, and I thought he had gotten a new one. It had been months since I had had any interaction with him.

    I found out a couple days ago that just over a week ago he jumped off a building, killing himself. There was no indication from anything that I saw that he was troubled, and I regret not reaching out to him more to catch up.

    I don’t know why he did it, and could think of multiple reasons, but it doesn’t matter. I think back to if I would have just asked, “Hey, how’s it going?” a month or so ago maybe things would have ended differently. I think about all the other acquaintances I know I haven’t reached out to yet and it makes me want to do it more. It’s easy with social media to hide our inner problems.

    I think I’ll make it a point to reach out to a few people and just see how they’re doing.

  • LaCrosse Tribune: “…gunshots were the predominant cause of death, with others including overdoses, hanging, blood loss and asphyxiation.”

    The ubiquity of firearms is a big part of the problem, since having a gun readily available in the home greatly increases the chances of a suicide attempt resulting in death. This is well known in the treatment community, which makes providing the means for a successful contact with a counselor the first time even more important.

    No one should ever have to be put on a waiting list because odds are that a gun is right there… ready to be used, no waiting required.

    • jon

      I’m always blown away when “the gun debate” cycles around how often the statistics are cited that there are “~10k gun deaths* per year” compared to ~30k automotive deaths or # of deaths from falling down stairs, or whatever… counting only homicides by gun…

      People seem so willing to ignore suicide… so willing to just pretend that the other ~20k gun deaths (suicide) didn’t happen… even to the point of folks arguing that “we weren’t talking about those deaths.” (I’ve actually been told this…)

      20K people die a year… and no one notices… 10 times the number killed in afghanistan during the whole war, every year…. and there is silence, and when it’s brought up, it’s shut down as “they’d find another way!” which maybe that’s true, some of the time… and maybe they’d be successful some of the time… but the success rate for suicide, guns win, no question…

      But not caring is pretty much how we end up with 20k suicides a year… so shouldn’t really be a surprise… still disappointing…

      • flqueenfan

        “20K people die a year… and no one notices…”
        And now we know why these 20,000 take their lives. I’ve been close before (my plan was to drive down a boat ramp into the water), but something told me to reach out to a crisis center and I’m still here. But what led me closest to doing this was that no one noticed me, even my family.

        • jon

          Glad your still here.

          I get that talking about it is a challenge… both for those suffering and for those near them.
          I’ve been trying to type up my own experience here for longer than I care to admit. So far I’ve managed to solidify the first and last sentence “I made it as far as a bridge.” “I’m fine now.” the middle is still uncomfortable, decade and a half later…

          • flqueenfan

            Glad you’re here, too. No one in my family knows. I can’t bear to tell them, for fear they will see me differently even though it’s also been over a decade. I can only tell strangers–I don’t care if people I don’t know judge me six ways from Sunday (but hopefully they don’t). The middle is the hardest part.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    At the risk of annoying the regulars by invoking politics I want recommend that the next time you are considering candidates, if this issue is important to you, ask where they stand on funding. A waiting list is a good sign that the agency providing the service doesn’t get enough funding (most of which will come from government sources) to hire enough people to cover the need. If we think this is important as a society we need to pay for it as a society and that is done through the political manifestation of our society, better known as the government. (All levels, but mostly state and federal.)

    • Barton

      that is exactly where I was headed in my mind.

      Also annoyed at the “blame the victim” attitude Bob mentions (if they’d only reached out for help…) which is not unique to mental health at all.

      • I’m really weary of the whole “stigma” and “make it OK to talk about it” campaigns which, to me, seem more about showing that people care about access to mental health rather than actually doing something. To me, it comes off as “we’ll do something about mental health parity and improving the system just as soon as YOU come up with the courage to talk about your problems.” It also reinforces that there is a stigma where that might not be one, thus creating a stigma.

        • HaroldAMaio

          The prejudices -the constant drilling of “stigma” into minds is but one example- we have been taught about mental illnesses remain a strong part of our culture. They have inhibited responses to individuals, as well as research, education, and the development of resources.
          Of course, they have contributed to tragedies.

  • lusophone

    The idea of a waiting list is bad by itself, but there’s something about this part of the quote, “It’s the same old same old, so we just have to keep plugging” that just rubs me the wrong way.

    • She’s talking about efforts to stop suicide, not people looking for help.