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Coroners: Suicide numbers are skyrocketing

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 17 2013 05:11:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 17 2013 06:15:55 PM CDT

It's a silent epidemic that mental health experts say is growing rapidly.

It's a silent epidemic that mental health experts say is growing rapidly.

Suicide.

Coroners say in the last few years suicide numbers in the U.S. have skyrocketed.

Every 13.7 minutes an American who lost a job, a relative or relationship or who struggles with medical issues, kills themselves.

Health experts say what's happening in Berks, Northampton and Lehigh counties is alarming.

"The numbers are above national levels for individuals who have completed suicide," said Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim.

The suicide death toll in these counties is 138 with three months left in 2013.

The Lehigh and Berks coroner's say those numbers are on track to surpass last year's total. Northampton Coroner Zach Lysek says his numbers could be consistent with last year.

Suicide beats out homicide in the United States 2:1 and keeps climbing.

The question is: Why?

"Folks get themselves in a state of mind where they believe they have no options," said Vicky Kistler with the Allentown Health Bureau.

"Most people are ambivalent about suicide part of them may be in so much pain they just want to end it all but usually there is a part that doesn't rely want to die," said Dr. Peter Langman, a Psychiatrist in Allentown.

Suicide prevention experts believe there are a number of reasons behind the mounting carnage.

The New York Times says since the recession of 2007 prescriptions for anti-depressants have soared, binge drinking is up, more than 5 million Americans have lost health care and 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure.

"There is one group that seems to be a great risk right now and those are males in the beginning early middle age, 30's, 40's, 50's," said Nancy Marshall with Family Answers in Allentown.

While rates for teens, the elderly, those who are terminally ill and veterans returning from combat are also rising, middle aged white men top the list.

Especially in Pennsylvania.

"We are taught that's not a sign of strength to rely on other people for help. That we have to go it alone. If we can't make a lot of money and have the fastest car and be the most successful that somehow it's a failure in us as people," said Bill Vogler, Executive Director of Family Answers.

But experts say the failure really lies in not asking someone in crisis if they need help or asking for it ourselves.

So what are the warning signs?

Someone who is depressed or withdrawn, hopeless or extremely angry.

For the next two nights we will go in depth on this issue and give you the resources you need to potentially save a life.

You can get a full list of the warning signs by clicking on "Death Toll: Suicide Prevention and Survival" on our home page.