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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Suicide rates increase in Louisiana, across nation

Suicide rates increase in Louisiana, across nation

Suicide rates in Louisiana have increased by more than 29 percent since 1999, following a larger nationwide trend, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Louisiana joins 48 other states that saw increases across gender, age groups, and race and ethnicity. The state’s suicide rate ranks 27th in the nation, according to the report, which analyzed data from 1999 to 2016.

Terrebonne Parish had 14 suicides last year, and Lafourche Parish had 17.

The apparent suicides of renowned chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain and famous handbag designer Kate Spade in the past week have raised public awareness about people killing themselves.

Suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the nation with about 45,000 in 2016 — twice the number of homicides. It is the second-leading cause of death in the nation for those between ages 10 and 34, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

An average of eight children in the state up to age 14 die by suicide a year, according to a report by the Louisiana Child Death Panel Review.

It’s important to secure medication, firearms and other potentially deadly items in a household to prevent children or others from gaining access if they are having suicidal thoughts, said Danita LeBlanc, a suicide prevention coordinator for the Louisiana Department of Health.

“One of my hopes sometimes is that we move toward more gun safety, more firearm safety in our culture,” LeBlanc said. “In many cases there is a bit of impulsive aspect to people acting on taking their life.”

Montana had the highest per-capita suicide rate and saw a 38 percent increase since 1999. Nevada was the only state to see a decrease.

In 27 states, 54 percent of deaths by suicide weren’t tied to a known mental health condition, according to the report. “(Relationships), substance use, health, and job or financial problems are among other circumstances contributing to suicide,” the report states.

Cynthia Elmer, the board chairwoman for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Louisiana Chapter, said it’s important to recognize that it’s usually not just one thing, such as mental illness or job loss, that factors into a suicide.

The most important thing someone can do, Elmer said, is to reach out and listen to those who may be showing warning signs.

“If you notice that someone you know is just not acting the same, is (more sad) or drinking more or dressing inappropriate — just any kind of sudden change in their demeanor — it could be a sign,” Elmer said. “I always say follow your gut.”

Elmer lost her son to suicide in 2004. She didn’t notice she had slipped into a breakdown afterward but credits a friend from work from bringing it to her attention.

“I did not myself know it,” Elmer said. “She saw the signs, she brought them up to me and I got help.”

The AFSP says some warning signs of suicide include talking about no reason to live, talking about being a burden to others, increased use of drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from activities and mood changes.

When someone does say they have been considering suicide, it’s important to listen to them, keep them safe and get help from a trained professional.

Those experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or text “START” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.


-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Natalie Schwartz can be reached at 857-2205 or Follow her on Twitter @nmschwartz23.