Sandy Williams says her father was 74 years old when he took his own life seven years ago. She says the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week take her right back to the day her father died. “You never get used to it,” Williams said. “There are always questions about why and what could have been done to prevent it.”
Since her father’s suicide, Williams has committed herself to the cause of suicide prevention and education. She has started a foundation in memory of her father called Jerry’s Walk and she currently serves as president of the board at the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation.
While she says she’s troubled by the recent high profile suicides, she is thrilled that people are now talking about the problem. “There’s just a lot of stigma around suicide and so we don’t talk about it,” Williams said. “People don’t understand it. They have a stereotype in their mind of the person who takes their life and why.”
Suicide rates are up by 30 percent across the nation since 1999, federal health officials reported Thursday. In less than a decade the rate of suicides in Ohio has gone up 36 percent meaning an average of about 5 people a day now die from suicide in Ohio.
Even though depression had been thought to be the major cause of suicide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now reports that only about half the people who died by suicide had a known mental health condition.
Dr. Megan Schabbing, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at OhioHealth Riverside Hospital says suicidal thoughts are a symptom of many types of mental illness and are indicative of brain dysfunction. “If you’re somebody who’s experiencing suicidal thoughts, that’s not your fault,” Schabbing said. “That is indicative of your brain not working right at that time.”
Dr. Schabbing says she’s not surprised by the new statistics but says they point to a need for more education and more conversations about suicide and some of the warning signs. “Anytime anyone you know makes a comment about wanting to die or ‘I want to kill myself’ – take it seriously,” Schabbing said. “I think there’s often times a misconception, ‘Oh she’s being dramatic, she wants attention.’ Don’t assume that. Take it seriously.”
Franklin County Suicide Prevention Hotline 614-221-5445
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255