26 May Suicide deaths top ODs in Portage so far this year – News – Record-Courier
More people have died so far in 2019 from suicide than from overdoses in Portage County.
The Portage County Coroner’s Office has confirmed 10 deaths by suicide as of May 21. Five deaths from drug overdoses have been confirmed in that time period, and four deaths that are believed to be overdoses are pending the completion of various reports, said Wayne Enders of the Portage County Corner’s Office.
Enders added that the office is fairly confident the four pending deaths listed as suspected overdoses will be ruled as overdoses. Deaths from overdoses have remained on par with 2018, when Portage saw a total of 42 deaths overdose deaths in 2017 and 30 overdose deaths in 2018.
Suicides have risen rapidly in Portage County in the past year. A record 31 suicides were recorded in 2018, more than any other year since the coroner’s office began tracking the numbers in 1891. Nine people in Portage County died by suicide in September of last year, Enders said.
Women have also been at a greater risk lately, Enders said, which raises a red flag for health officials because traditionally men complete suicide more often than women. The disparity is because women are more likely to get help, Enders added.
Teenagers are also more likely to die by suicide now than in the past, he said.
Of the five overdose deaths that have been confirmed by the coroner’s office, four of them saw some sort of fentanyl analog in them, according to data from the office. The fifth was caused by steroid toxicity.
While fentanyl has been a factor in nearly every overdose death, the coroner’s office found methamphetamine in two of them. Methamphetamine has become a worry for law enforcement in Portage County, after the Portage County Drug Task Force picked up more than 141 pounds of methamphetamine in 2018.
So what can be done about the problems of suicide and addiction?
The Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County has made signs for the community with mental health hotline numbers, and they’re trying to spread the word through events such as “Hot Topics,” a sponsored event through all Portage County public schools aimed at educating parents about problems their children experience, such as dating violence and mental health. The event also talks about drugs and vaping.
Karyn Kravtez, community outreach director for the Portage County Mental Health and Recovery Board, said the board is also offering training for all staff in schools to recognize the signs of suicide, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher’s aides and administrators.
Grade school students up until high school also receive some programing in mental health and drug addiction, she said. Grade school students go through a program that also helps them develop social and emotional skills, she noted.
However, many of the people dying by suicide are middle-aged, and don’t gather in a central place, Kravetz said, and are therefore harder to reach. Everyone who has died by suicide so far this year has been over the age of 18, and seven were older than 50, according to the coroner’s office.
She said the mental health and recovery board is looking at reaching out to churches in the area to see if pastors are willing to talk about mental health during their Sunday sermons. Giving out resources, she said, is important for anyone, even if they’re not currently struggling with mental health or addiction problems.
Her office also helps connect drug addicts with resources and raises awareness about the stigma of addition, she said.
For both addiction and suicide, the message is focusing on getting people help.
“The main message is treatment is available and it works,” said Kravetz. “Battling the stigma is always one of our No. 1 concerns.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also call the local crisis hotline, 330-296-3555 or 330-678-4357 or text 4hope to 741741. Townhall II is a local addiction treatment center. Call 330-678-3006. Coleman Professional Services offers emergency mental health screens, 330-673-1734.
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at 330-298-1128, email@example.com or @Eileen_McClory.