Although on the surface, the numbers may not appear to be too alarming, the suicide rate in Harvey County has a recent trend well above the national average.


Although on the surface, the numbers may not appear to be too alarming, the suicide rate in Harvey County has a recent trend well above the national average.

According to Ninth Judicial District Coroner, Dr. Ron Morford the ratio of suicides per 100,000 people in Harvey County is between 40 and 50 percent higher than the national average since 2006 based on information from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Morford gave the number of Harvey County suicides in each year since 2006. This year, there have been five suicides, which is the second lowest in the last four years. The most recent confirmed case occurred last week in Newton.

In 2008, there were eight reported suicides, four in 2007 and nine in 2006.

Morford said the actual number of suicide-related deaths is hard to determine because there are some cases where a death ultimately caused by self harm may officially be ruled as “an accident.”

The four-year total of Harvey County suicides is 26, with an average of 6.3 per year in a population of about 33,000.

This ratio is equivalent to about 19 suicides per 100,000 people. Matthew Schmidt, director of community support for Prairie View Inc., a Harvey County mental health facility in Newton, said research indicates that national suicide rates can “be characterized as mostly stable over time.”

“Since 1990, the rates have ranged between 12.4 and 10.7 suicides per 100,000 (people,)” he said.

Schmidt said the latest suicide data provided by the Center for Disease Control was in 2006, when there were nine suicides in Harvey County. Schmidt said according to the CDC, there were more than 33,000 confirmed suicides nationwide in 2006.

“That would be about 91 a day and approximately one every 16 minutes,” he said. “That also works out to be about 10.95 per 100,000.”

According to the numbers, Harvey County’s suicide rate more than doubled the national average in 2006. Although Schmidt didn’t have last year’s national average, it’s likely Harvey County’s eight suicides in 2008 also exceeded twice the average rate.

Schmidt pointed out depression is the most prevalent mental-health disorder in the United States and the leading culprit for suicides.

“One of the things that we know is that the risk of suicide in people with major depression is significantly greater than in the general population,” Schmidt said. “Some statistics I’ve seen have placed that at about 20-times greater, if you meet the criteria to be classified as having a major depression.”

Schmidt outlined risk factors that could lead an individual to consider suicide. Along with depression, significant risk factors for contemplating suicide include substance abuse, unemployment, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of social supports and a fall of economic or social status.

Although it’s difficult to see specific trends on a year-by-year basis with recent data, Schmidt mentioned the presence of a couple of the risk factors associated with the troubled economy.

“In a time like this, when you see more significant rates of unemployment, that particular risk factor is going to be more true for a greater number of people,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said depression, whether it be a primary or co-occurring diagnosis “is significant in a number of the clients that (Prairie View) serves.”

While depression isn’t the only reason for an individual to commit suicide, it is the most common culprit. Schmidt said a large number of suicides are committed by people who suffer from depression and fail to seek help.

“The part of the message I hope people hear is that there is hope,” Schmidt said. “While millions of Americans suffer from depression, research supports the fact that treatments for depression are highly effective. Unfortunately, far too often, people don’t seek out the assistance they deserve.”

To seek help for depression, call Prairie View at (800) 362-0180.