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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Suicide deaths in Franklin County rose by 10% last year – a statistic that should alarm community members, a prevention advocate said.

As the pandemic lingered on in 2021, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office recorded 158 suicide deaths, a 10% jump from the 144 documented in 2020, according to a coroner’s data brief released Friday. Firearms remain the No. 1 method of suicide in the county, and men continue to outnumber women in suicide deaths.

“It’s post-pandemic, post-PTSD that kind of our whole society has right now from what the pandemic has done for us,” Jeff Heck, a suicide loss survivor and prevention advocate, said. “And unfortunately it’s not just Franklin County – those numbers are up all over the state.”

While both Franklin County and Ohio saw an increased suicide death rate — the number of suicides per 100,000 people — of 6% and 7%, respectively, the county observed a 20% lower suicide rate compared with the entire state, the coroner’s office said.

Whether it be isolation to financial constraints, Heck, a Mansfield attorney who lost his “tough, amazing” 33-year-old daughter Danielle to suicide in 2019, said the mental health of Ohioans is being challenged unlike any other time.

“Everybody has a bucket of resilience,” he said. “We all have that bucket and when that bucket gets empty, that’s when all of us have thoughts that aren’t healthy.”

Suicide hit 25-34 age group the hardest

While Franklin County residents aged 15 to 24 accounted for the most suicide deaths in 2020, the 25-34 age group was hit hardest by suicide in 2021, the coroner’s office found.

Age group20202021

Although 25- to 34-year-olds made up the largest percentage of suicides in Franklin County, three ages groups saw significant jumps in the number of deaths from 2020 to 2021:

  • 55-64 age group: 60% increase
  • 25-34 age group: 54% increase
  • 35-44 age group: 30% increase

Men accounted for 80% of suicide deaths

Like 2020, male Franklin County residents who died by suicide continued to outnumber women by significant margins in 2021.

Men accounted for 80% of the county’s suicide deaths in 2021, a 12% increase in male suicides since 2020, according to the coroner’s office. Women made up the remaining 20% of deaths.

Firearms = No. 1 suicide method

Accounting for 48% of suicide methods in both 2020 and 2021, firearms continue to be the No. 1 way to die by suicide among Franklin County residents, the coroner’s office said.

The use of firearms among Franklin County women, specifically, soared from being involved in 10% of female deaths to 31% of deaths, the coroner’s office said. As firearm deaths among women rose, acute intoxication and falls dropped.

Which Franklin County zip codes saw the most suicides?

The 43201 zip code, which stretches from parts of the Short North Arts District to the University District in Columbus, saw the largest increase in suicide deaths from 2020 to 2021, the coroner’s office found.

But with 11 recorded suicides in 2021, the southwestern Franklin County zip code of 43123 — stretching from Wrightsville to Grove City — accounted for the most suicides.

While most location-related statistics stayed the same, Franklin County saw a slight jump in suicides recorded in jails, accounting for 1% of deaths in 2020 to 4% of deaths in 2021, the coroner's office said.

Most Franklin County suicides, 81%, occurred in a residence, like a single family house or apartment, in 2021.

'Wake-up call'

After losing his daughter to suicide, Heck and his wife Donna launched 33Forever, a suicide prevention nonprofit that seeks to raise awareness of and support those dealing with mental illness.

The nonprofit raised a record number of funds in September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month, and while disheartened by 2021's rise in suicides, he said it's refreshing that people are "willing to talk about it like never before."

"It should also be a wake-up call to every single person in Ohio and otherwise that we have to be super vigilant with the people we care about and the people we love," he said.