Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, and in rural areas of Kentucky, the impact of suicide has been significant.
Local health experts cite several factors as behind why some Bluegrass counties have almost double the national rates of suicide.
“I was in college, and received a call in my dorm room from my family that my uncle had completed suicide. It was a low income, low end job. He had depression. He didn’t reach out,” recalled Dr. Ronsonlyn Clark with RiverValley Behavior Health.
Decades later, Dr. Clark can still remember the impact her uncle taking his own life had on her and her family:
“It’s first time I saw my father cry, because that was his baby brother.”
She works daily to keep other families from going through the same, saying, “I hope today that some of what I do honors my uncle.”
While mental health experts note that what happens inside a persons head plays a big role in suicidal thoughts, external factors also weigh in.
A new study from The Ohio State University cites several of those factors as behind why western Kentucky counties stand out when it comes to the rate of suicides.
“There’s a despair. I think it’s the depression. The despair, and the hopelessness and the feeling that they can’t fix what’s going on,” offered Dianne McFarling, who serves as director of the Regional Prevention Center.
In Union County in particular, those living there are taking their own lives at more than double the national average, and it impacts across all ages.
“We work a lot with our school population, we work a lot with our youth population. Peer pressure and social media allows people to be more to themselves and less looking at other people and measuring themselves by what they see on social media,” cited McFarling.
But experts studying Kentucky counties are pointing to three main reasons across all western Kentuckians as behind the rise: lack of education, poverty, and a disconnect from the community.
The advice from local groups: make an effort to get out in the world around, and forge links of support.
“Have a purpose in your life. If its a job, if it’s being a support for other people. Having that connection,” recommended McFarling.
If you or someone you know is having difficulty, there are resources available.
Local experts are on hand by phone 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK. Help can also be found online here.