Forty-One Percent of Suicides in a County in Indiana Were on Antidepressant:First 6 Months of 2009

Second paragraph from the end reads:  "Of the 17 deaths in the first half of 2009, seven people were taking antidepressant medication, but only one was seeing a counselor. Chappell and Groves said studies show doing both works best."

SSRI Stories note:  Forty-one percent of the people who committed suicide were taking an antidepressant. 

Economy-related suicides up

Groves: Overall numbers consistent with 2008

  • By Gavin Lesnick
  • Posted September 7, 2009 at 11:40 p.m. , updated September 8, 2009 at 9:35 a.m.
  • Source: Vanderburgh County Coroner's Office

    EVANSVILLE ­ Vanderburgh County had the same number of suicides through the first half of this year as it did in the first six months of 2008, though officials say there has been a marked increase in self-inflicted deaths tied to the faltering economy.

    Of the 17 suicides reported through June 30, six of them occurred after the person lost his job.

    That compares with only one job-related suicide in the first half of 2008.

    Coroner Annie Groves called it a big concern, especially given the recent news that Whirlpool will shut down next year, taking 1,100 jobs with it. "When you lose your job, you lose your home, you lose hope," Groves said. "That worries me with this economy."

    The coroner's office recently released data on suicides in advance of Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week, which continues through Saturday in Evansville. It ends with the LifeSavers Walk, an annual event that raises awareness and funds for addressing the suicide problem. Registration starts at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Evansville State Hospital, 3400 Lincoln Ave.

    Local efforts toward combating suicides grew in 2007, when Vanderburgh County ended the year with a record 40 self-inflicted deaths.

    The numbers went down slightly in 2008, when 38 were reported by year's end, and are on pace this year to finish down again.

    In addition to the increase in job-related suicides, Groves said there also has been a steady increase in self-inflicted deaths by people ages 20 to 39. There were 11 such deaths in the first six months of the year compared with just five during that span last year, 14 in all of 2008 and 16 in all of 2007.

    "That's an area I'm very concerned about," Groves said. "… It used to be 50 to 59 was our higher ones."

    The 17 deaths recorded through the end of June include only confirmed suicides.

    Groves said there likely are six more suicides among 14 cases officially ruled accidental overdoses, but that a lack of hard evidence prevents her from ruling those deaths intentional.

    But on another front, the numbers could be construed as artificially high: The 17 self-inflicted deaths include seven people who committed a suicidal act in another county but died here after being airlifted to an Evansville hospital.

    In any event, Groves said seeing the numbers come down from the record-setting 2007 figures is a good sign.

    She credits the dip with multiple prevention efforts: the walk, frequent classes that teach the signs and symptoms of suicide and brochures and billboards that increase awareness.

    "We're so busy focusing on how many we've lost, we sometimes forget to focus on how many we've saved," Groves said.

    Janie Chappell, chairwoman of the Southwestern Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition, said awareness efforts increasingly will focus on encouraging people suffering from depression to seek medication and counseling.

    Of the 17 deaths in the first half of 2009, seven people were taking antidepressant medication, but only one was seeing a counselor. Chappell and Groves said studies show doing both works best.

    "But there's still so much stigma surrounding mental health, people are reluctant to get help," Chappell said.