The suicide rate in Ohio increased by 24 percent from 2008 to 2017, according to a new study analyzing vital statistics. And details about who is being most affected can help in the fight to reverse the trend, advocates say.

The highest rates of suicide are in Appalachian counties and the suicide rate among men is four times higher than women.

Rates also increased 80% among children 14 and younger and 57 percent for Ohioans 60 and older, according to the report released this week by the 28-organization public-private Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health.

Drilling down to populations and communities most severely impacted can help target limited state resources toward those areas, said Orman Hall, the study’s author.

The next step is to make information available to local mental health boards, treatment providers and health departments so they can better know which parts of their communities are most in need, said Hall, executive in residence for the Ohio University College of Health Sciences and Professions, which created the alliance with the University of Toledo College of Health and Human Services.

Statewide, there were 15,246 suicides from 2008 to 2017, for an average annual rate of 13.3 deaths per 100,000 people — representing 1.3 percent of all deaths, the report says.

Researchers estimate that Ohioans lost 526,501 years of life over the decade.

The report notes that there were 786 suicides in Summit County from 2008 to 2017, a rate of 14.51 per 100,000 population. Other Akron-area counties and their suicides and rates were: Stark (591, 15.74), Medina (206, 11.95), Portage (189, 11.71), Cuyahoga (1,461, 11.41) and Wayne (125, 10.92).

Meigs County, with 51 suicides over that time period, had the highest suicide rate per population at 21.46 per 100,0000. Holmes County, with 29 suicides, had the lowest rate at 6.85.

Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said suicide is a defined concern in the State Health Improvement Plan and the new report allows leaders to review trends and work together to have a positive impact.

“Our department and a number of others have initiatives that address suicide prevention and support families impacted by losing a loved one to suicide,” Criss said. “This gives us a chance to really look at those and to grow them in intentional ways to have the impact that we need with specific communities or populations who are at higher risk.”

The report indicates that nine of the 10 Ohio counties with the highest average annual suicide rates are in the Appalachian region as defined by the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center. The other county in the top 10 is Trumbull County, which is located in northeastern Ohio but considered part of Appalachia by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Hall said these areas have experienced economic deprivation and other social roadblocks that have become more entrenched than in other areas of the state.

Michelle Price, program director at the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, added that the region has been hit by income losses affecting farmers and industrial workers. Further, she said, there are fewer mental health professionals in those areas, leaving many people in need of help with nowhere to turn.

Among other report findings: The highest average annual suicide rates were among white Ohioans; rate increases were more significant in rural and suburban areas than in Appalachian and metropolitan areas; and firearms accounted for about half of all suicides.

Still, amid mounting negative statistics about suicide, Price said there is hope as groups work together to address the trends.

Price said “gatekeeper” training through the prevention foundation and other agencies teaches people to approach others who are struggling instead of waiting for them to reach out. Versions of the training are available for clinicians and behavioral-health professionals, teachers and anyone who has interactions in their community. Many schools, she added, have implemented suicide-prevention programs for students and for teachers.

Programs through the state mental health agency, Criss said, include a new Ohio chapter of YouthMOVE, a youth-led campaign that helps connect young people to needed resources, and the Be Present Ohio campaign that seeks to educate peers and siblings of at-risk youth to provide needed support. The state also works to provide Zero Suicide Academy programs to teach health care professionals the signs of suicide and how to respond.

 

Beacon Journal/Ohio.com staff writer Rick Armon contributed to this report.