Suicide epidemic sweeping the country, rates rising here at home

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Many of you at home right now have been touched by the tragedy of suicide.

Health professionals say it's a growing epidemic in the United States with no slowdown in sight. It's a problem that's taking loved ones away from families far too soon.

16 News Now reporter Zach Horner sat down with a suicide prevention specialist and a mother who lost a daughter to discuss what is considered a preventable cause of death.

"It is a public health concern because they are rising and nobody really knows exactly why," said Barbara Gulbranson, director of the Suicide Prevention Center of St. Joseph County.

It’s a topic many don't want to talk about, but when you look at the numbers, it's a tragic reality that's hard to avoid.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the grim reality right here at home. From 1999 to 2016, Indiana saw an increase in deaths by suicide of 31.9%. Michigan looked at a slightly higher increase of 32.9%.

Suicide isn't isolated to just one age group. Suicide is a top 10 leading cause of death for people ages 10 all the way to 64.

Gulbranson says part of the problem is people aren't asking for help.

"People aren't getting help for depression in the way they should be. Most cases of depression are treatable, it can be treated, but there's a stigma. ‘Oh, I'm weak if I get help for depression,' or 'They're going to lock me up' or 'They're going to hospitalize me,’ which is not really the case,” Gulbranson said.

Instead of seeking help, some people who are suffering turn to maladaptive behaviors.

"Drinking and drugs is the most harmful, because if you couple that with depression, you have potential for suicide, and if someone does have access to a lethal method, maybe they do have a gun in the house and they're drinking and they're depressed, and drinking is only going to make the depression worse, not better,” Gulbranson added.

The dark feeling of hopelessness can be too much for some.

"No one wants that phone call, no one wants that phone call," Deanna McCool said.

McCool lost her daughter, Anna Phoenix McCool, when she ended her own life after a long internal battle.

"My daughter died by suicide Aug. 15 of 2018" McCool said. "We always had hope that she wouldn't, but we weren't blindsided by it either."

Anna had dealt with her own mental health issues for years, often talking to family about wanting to die, but seeing professionals for help. While feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the world, it all became too much.

"She told her younger sister she was just going to get a hamburger, and my husband realized that we hadn't heard from her in two hours, McCool said. "So I texted her and I said, 'Where are you?' and a couple of seconds later I got a phone call from a police officer."

Anna was at the hospital after trying to end her life. She was still alive, but by the time her family arrived, Anna was gone.

Her mother wanted a final look to say goodbye.

"We went to go see her, she had a sheet on but her face looked like her face, so I was very happy to at least get one last look at her as I remember," McCool said.

Resources here in Michiana are available to keep other families from living through a similar tragedy.

"Reach out, ask for help. You are not alone. Use any of these resources, do not try to go it alone. It's not a sign of weakness at all. Ask for help, reach out, connect, and if you have no one at all to connect with, we're there on the crisis line,” Gulbranson said.

Also, think about those you'll leave behind.

“You've killed yourself, but you've transferred your pain onto those left behind, and seeing that is the most heartbreaking thing. I mean, there was a loss of a life and that is heartbreaking, but you see the pain of those left behind and that will rip your heart out," Gulbranson added.

The Suicide Prevention Center has a variety of resources to help if you're having suicidal thoughts. They also offer assistance to survivors of suicide.

Contact them here:
6910 N. Main St. # 9, Granger, IN 46530
574-247-6047

Suicide Prevention Hotline:
1-800-273-8255