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Area suicide rates rise

Brooke Hafs, News Writer
April 24, 2013
Filed under News

In 2007, Brown County reached an all time high of 40 deaths by suicide, which has led to the development of a suicide prevention coalition.

Tana Koss, the Program Director at the Crisis Center of Brown County said this year is particularly alarming because in less than four months, there have been 14 deaths.

Koss said it’s hard to tell if the trend will continue through the remainder of the year.

“Sometimes we see peaks, and the rest of the year evens out,” Koss said. “It’s inconsistent throughout the year.”

The greatest incidence for suicide is generally found among working-class, middle-age white males, according to Koss.

“Upwards of 90 percent of the time there is a diagnosable treatment of mental health issue such as depression,” Koss said.  “Out of the 14 people who have died by suicide this year in Brown County, only one falls out of the usual demographic.”

On average, the Crisis Center sees 160 people a month who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. This year the center has helped 15 percent more people than the year before.

The initiative of the coalition has a policy called QPR, which stands for question, persuade and refer. The Crisis Center has 20 certified trainers who will go to any room in the community to train people.

The trainers aim to inform the youth first and foremost about suicide prevention.

Koss said in recent years, youth suicide rates are increasingly growing.  She also said the youth are the gatekeepers for their parents.

“The demographic that is most at risk to die by suicide are dads,” Koss said. “If the kids are informed, they can share the info to the rest of the family.”

Greg Smith, a counselor at Counseling and Health Services at UW-Green Bay said they work with people who have suicidal thoughts and who take suicidal action on a fairly regular basis. According to Smith, it is not an uncommon situation for  Counseling and Health Services.

“It would be rare for a month to go by without us having to deal with it,” Smith said.

The Counseling and Health Center provides counseling, assessments and training for suicidal situations.

“If somebody reports that somebody on campus may be suicidal, our office is pledged to reach out and contact that person as soon as possible,” Smith said.

Smith said although the risk for suicide increases with age, it is important to talk with students about it.

“Nationally the risk of suicide increases with age,” said Smith “But we talk with college students a lot.”

Koss said it is important that people are informed about what red flags can signal suicidal thoughts.

“Recent relationship breakups are the biggest risk for college aged people,” Koss said.

“Trouble eating or sleeping, personality changes, lack of interest in future and giving away possessions are all red flags.”

Koss also said most people who attempt suicide tell someone directly that they are thinking about it. It is important to take any signals seriously.

Smith said the Counseling and Health Center trains the residence assistants on campus to handle suspicious situations in the dorms.

“The RAs are trained to  call the area coordinators and the treatment is worked out through there,” Smith said. “It’s imperative that there is a protocol in place for the RAs.”

Alyssa Lamberton, junior communication major and an RA at UWGB, said the protocol to handle these situations is simple.

“Call the area coordinator on duty, even if it’s just heard secondhand or is of any concern,” Lamberton said. “They take it from there, but we’re supposed to stay with the student until the area coordinator or Public Safety gets there to give further instruction.”

Lamberton said these situations can be serious for the RAs.

“It’s scary to deal with,” Lamberton said. “The first one I had to deal with, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing, but you always have tons of people to help you.”

For those thinking about committing suicide, campus RAs are equipped to handle the situation, or they can speak to Counseling and Health Center.

The number for the Counseling and Health Center is 920-465-2380.  If students know anyone who is having thoughts, don’t hesitate to call. The 24/7 hour hotline at the Crisis Center in Green Bay is 920-436-8888. If the threat is immanent, call 911.