County, parish suicide rates higher than state, national average
NATCHEZ — A trifecta of poverty, drugs and lack of education are all factors local counselors say contribute to a climate in which an Adams County resident is a third more likely to take his or her own life than the national average.
The Delta Regional Authority’s health data survey was released last week, and Adams County’s rate of suicide — 15 of every 100,000 deaths — is 36 percent higher than the national average of 11 per 100,000 deaths. The Mississippi state rate is 12 per 100,000.
Concordia Parish has a rate of 10 suicides per 100,000 deaths. The Louisiana state average is 12 suicides per every 100,000 deaths.
Taken holistically, the Miss-Lou’s combined average of 12.5 deaths per 100,000 is higher than both state and national averages.
Carolyn Brown, the program coordinator at Positive Choices Counseling, said the group recently hosted a suicide prevention seminar because of an increase in the number of suicides and attempted suicides that were being referred to the counseling program. The seminar was not well-attended, and two days later someone in the community committed suicide, she said.
“We were wanting to make the community a little more aware of the services that are available, that there is help for those who are contemplating or who have thoughts of suicide,” Brown said.
It’s not possible to pin exactly why the suicide rate in a given community is higher or lower, but the Miss-Lou has several factors that tend to correlate with an increased tendency to suicide, she said.
“One of those reasons would be the high rate of poverty, the lack of having or knowing of the resources available in the area and the lack of support,” Brown said. “We also have low rate of completion of high school. People who are not well-educated do not seek out assistance as someone who is educated, who might decide, ‘I need help for this, so let me go get help.’
“Education is what is necessary so people know what resources are available to them so they can build support systems for people who have mental illnesses or are dealing with crises they don’t know how to deal with.”
Another correlating factor is high rates of drug use and abuse, said Positive Choices Executive Director Edward Brown.
“We have a flux of drugs in this area with this area being a thruway for drugs coming from Texas and the East coast,” he said.
“We really need to bring an understanding of the effect of drugs in our community, not just illegal drugs but psychotropic drugs as well.”
Jan Lipscomb lost her 20-year-old son Todd to suicide in 2007, and has since been active in suicide awareness and prevention causes. She said she believes his suicide was influenced by an addiction to Xanax that started because he was depressed.
Now, because of her own tragedy, Lipscomb said she feels like she hears of every suicide in the community.
“Since my son died, it seems like it is once a month that I hear of somebody else (committing suicide),” she said. “I have lost a son and a nephew to suicide, and I know of some people who say that they feel like the awareness brings too much attention to it and might actually give somebody the idea to do it, but I look at it as a way to reach out and prevent it, not promote it.”
One of the keys to suicide prevention is to let people know that there are resources available to help them cope with what is troubling them, Carolyn Brown said.
“There are lots of people who even though they have family members near them, people are leery of reaching out and letting people know that they have thoughts of suicide because of the stigma attached to mental illness,” she said.
“If they know what is available and that they are not alone — that they are not the only person in the world who is facing some of the issues that they are facing — when people tend to know they are not by themselves, it tends to give them hope.”
That’s why Positive Choices will be developing a series of programs during the next few months to address some of the factors that contribute to suicide, Edward Brown said, including teaching youth in the area coping skills.
“(Youth) are often being brought into adulthood with poor coping skills,” he said.
On the other side of the coin, Lipscomb said, is that the area needs to offer a support structure for the families of suicide victims. The closest counseling group for those affected by suicide is in Baton Rouge.
That’s why, after several years of working with the American Federation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness fundraising walk, Lipscomb said she and several others who have been affected by suicide are starting the Miss-Lou Suicide Survivor’s Group. They are raising money to start a non-profit group and are seeking a counselor who will help with support meetings.
“The AFSP is a good organization; they are in New York and are able to do a lot of good with the money we have raised here, but we are really trying to establish an organization here locally,” she said.
“We need some way to help the people to prevent suicide, but we also need something for those who have been left behind.”
Edward Brown said his future goals for whatever education his organization might offer are the same as what he stated at the first, poorly attended suicide prevention seminar.
“I told them that what I wanted to accomplish was that I wanted to make suicide not an option,” he said.
For more information about the Miss-Lou Suicide Survivor’s Group, contact Lipscomb at 601-431-1821 or by e-mail at email@example.com, or Hank Cooley at 318-228-5434.