In Tennessee, an estimated 950 men, women, and children die by suicide each year. More people die by suicide each year than from homicide, AIDS, or drunk driving. Suicide is the leading cause of violent deaths in our state, nationally, and worldwide, far above homicide and death due to natural disasters.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 15-24 in Tennessee and for the United States at large. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there were 945 recorded suicide deaths in our state in 2014, at a rate of 14.4 per 100,000 people.
On Tuesday, County Mayor Tim Stribling and Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss signed proclamations designating September as Suicide Prevention Month in DeKalb County and Smithville.
In 2014, the latest year for which county-specific figures are available, DeKalb County's age-adjusted suicide rate was 15.6 per 100,000 people, translating into three reported suicide deaths. This number of suicides in DeKalb County for 2014 is the same as the previous year but the local rate is higher than the state average of 14.4 per 100,000 population for 2014 as reported by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
Clay County had the highest suicide rate among the fourteen counties of the Upper Cumberland Region at 38.6 per 100,000 with three deaths. Overton County had the fewest with one death at a rate of 4.5 per 100,000.
Stewart County had the state's highest rate at 52.7 per 100,000 with seven deaths. Decatur and Houston Counties reported no suicides in 2014.
DeKalb County's suicide rate was at 16.6 per 100,000 in 2006 and 2007 with three deaths each of those years. But the rate soared to 48.1 per 100,000 in 2008 with nine deaths. The rate dropped to 26.5 per 100,000 with five deaths in 2009 but went back up to 37.4 per 100,000 with seven deaths in 2010. DeKalb's suicide rate for 2011 was 26.5 per 100,000 with five deaths and 15.9 per 100,000 in 2012 with three suicides and 15.7 per 100,000 in 2013 with three deaths.
In almost all cases, suicide can be traced to unrecognized, untreated, or poorly treated mental illness. It can happen to people of either sex, any race or ethnicity, and any economic status. The average suicide death leaves behind six survivors—family and friends of the deceased—all of whom are at increased risk for a suicide attempt themselves. As if the emotional and psychological toll were not enough, suicide and suicide attempts cost the state of Tennessee $1 billion a year in medical treatment, lost wages, and lost productivity.
The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) and its allies in the public health, mental health, and social service fields are joining forces to recognize the month of September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this annual observance, TSPN and its allies arrange several educational and memorial events across Tennessee. These projects help teach the general public about the problem of suicide and how it can be prevented. They also give us an opportunity to remember those lost to suicide; to encourage survivors of suicide, survivors of suicide attempts, and people who have triumphed over mental illness; and to recognize individuals who have made notable contributions to suicide prevention efforts in our state.
As part of this observance, mayors and county executives across Tennessee will receive proclamations declaring September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which they will sign in support of our state’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month efforts. These proclamations will be presented at the annual Suicide Prevention Awareness Day event, scheduled for 10:30 AM on Wednesday, September 14, at Trevecca Community Church, located at 335 Murfreesboro Pike in Nashville.
Details about the Suicide Prevention Awareness Day observance and other events planned across the state will be announced on the TSPN website (www.tspn.org). Additional information about Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is available from the TSPN central office at (615) 297-1077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.