SUICIDE; Prevention Is Key

The Florida Times Union, April 9, 2006 | Go to article overview
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SUICIDE; Prevention Is Key


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All that's left of yesterday for thousands of families around Florida is a picture of a smiling face.

All those faces.

A 40-something male going fishing.

A daughter in a prom dress.

A son in full Marine dress.

A grandpa sitting behind his work desk.

All of them had bright futures, their families say.

Now they are gone. All lost to suicide.

Those faces now sit prominently above mantels, on nightstands and in car visors. Mere memories.

But their spirits live on in family members who congregate at the Capitol Building in Tallahassee each year for suicide prevention awareness day.

The hope?

To prevent other families from having to deal with the heartbreak and pain they have suffered.

The goal?

To successfully persuade state legislators to approve two bills that would set up a statewide office of suicide prevention.

THE FACTS

On a national scale, Florida ranks 15th for the total number of suicides. But suicide is the 11th cause of death in the United States. It is the eighth-leading cause of death for males in the country, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

The suicide numbers within the state are shocking. In Florida, the number of suicides is twice the number of homicides. In 2004, there were 2,382 suicides compared to 1,030 homicides. In 2003, there were 2,985 suicides statewide and 1,004 homicides. That trend has remained the same since 1998.

Duval County desperately needs an office of statewide prevention to coordinate efforts on a larger scale.

Since 1999, Duval County has ranked in the top three for the highest suicide rates in Florida's metro counties. But where the county needs the most help is when it comes to childhood suicides.

Hangings, self-inflicted gun shots and overdosing on pills are the three most common methods of suicide in the 10-to 24-year-old age bracket. Duval County loses about 15 children a year to suicide.

The suicide rates per 100,000 children in Duval county are extremely high. In 2002, Duval ranked first in the state with an average of 9.11 deaths per 100,000 youth in that 10-24 category. Since then, in 2003 and 2004, Duval has been ranked second with 8.29 deaths, according to the Office of Vital Statistics. The national average is seven deaths per 100,000 youths.

Healthy people do not die by suicide. People who are suffering in silence with untreated mental illness, or a brain disease, do. One such disease is depression.

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