In Macomb County and throughout the state of Michigan, preventing suicide among adolescents and young adults is a priority for parents, mental health experts, and other concerned individuals.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Michigan residents, ages 15 to 34. In 2014, the most recent year for which complete records are available, 2,550 individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 died in the state of Michigan. Sixteen percent of that total, or 408 deaths, resulted from suicide. Only accidents (primarily automobile accidents and accidental drug overdoses) killed more people in Michigan’s 15-34 demographic.
Risk Factors for Suicide
Every suicide is a unique tragedy with a specific series of events that led to the event, but experts have identified several factors that may be putting individuals in Macomb County at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts and actions. Two of the suicide risk factors, poverty and stress, are unfortunately prevalent in Macomb County.
A March 28, 2016, article in The Macomb Daily documented the degree to which children in the county are impacted by poverty and related negative experiences:
- In the nine-year period from 2006 to 2014, the childhood poverty rate in Macomb County increased by a stunning 74 percent.
- Almost 50 percent of students in kindergarten through 12th grade in Macomb County are from families whose total household income is low enough to qualify the students for free lunch programs at school.
- More than 1,400 students who attend school in the Macomb County Intermediate School District are homeless.
- Macomb County has the highest child poverty rate among Michigan’s 83 counties.
The Macomb Daily also reported that, during the same nine-year period when Macomb County’s child poverty rate increased so dramatically, the annual number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Macomb County also increased by 29 percent.
Exposure to poverty, abuse, and/or neglect can cause both short and long-term damage to an individual’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and can put him or her at risk for a variety of negative outcomes, including suicide.
Of course, poverty, abuse, and neglect are not the only factors that can put a person at heightened danger for suicidal thoughts or actions. People who fail to get effective care for certain mental health disorders, including but not limited to depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be at increased risk for suicide, as are those who struggle with untreated substance use disorders.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Complicating the effort to eliminate suicide in Macomb County, as well as in other communities throughout Michigan and across the country, is the fact that no single risk factor or group of risk factors is common among all people who attempt suicide.
In addition to knowing the risk factors, it is also important for individuals to be aware of the warning signs that may indicate that a person is thinking about ending his or her life. According to The Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to eradicating youth suicide, the following are among the more common warning signs:
- Talking about suicide
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and/or worthless
- Struggling with depression
- Being preoccupied with death
- Engaging in risky and/or self-destructive behaviors
- Out of character behavior
- Losing interest in things that had previously been of great importance
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
- Giving prized possessions away
Suicide Prevention Tips
If you fear that someone you know may be at risk for suicide, do not ignore your suspicions. Talk to the person.
Contrary to an unfortunately persistent piece of misinformation, asking a person if they are thinking about killing themselves will not increase his or her risk for suicide. In fact, many people who are thinking about ending their own lives may be relieved that someone cares enough to intervene.
If a person is in immediate harm, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You may also contact the Macomb County Community Mental Health Crisis Center Helpline at 855-927-4747
Once the individual is out of immediate danger, take the necessary steps to ensure that he or she gets the mental health treatment that can free him or her from suicidal impulses and help him or her to live a healthier and more satisfying life.