According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is a large and growing public health problem. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. It was responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016 with approximately one death every 12 minutes. Suicide affects all ages and is a problem throughout the lifespan. It is the second leading cause of death for people 10-34 years or age; the fourth leading cause of death among people aged 35-54 years of age and the eighth leading cause of death among people 55-64 years of age.
Let’s look at this problem closer to home. Per the Ohio Department of Health, in Ohio, five people die by suicide every day. One youth dies by suicide every 33 hours. In 2018, eight Meigs County adults completed suicide; as of this writing, five Meigs County adults completed suicide in 2019. Meigs, Gallia and Jackson Counties were found to have some of the highest suicide rates in Ohio based on our populations.
Hopelessness, defined as a system of negative beliefs and expectancies concerning oneself and one’s future, is a significant risk factor for both suicide ideation and death by suicide in depressed adults over 50, according to research. A sense of hopelessness was one trend identified in the 2015 Meigs County General Health District Community Health Assessment. Meigs County residents reported a pervasive sense of apathy in the community. This is likely to increase negative health behaviors and decrease healthy behaviors.
A remedy for hopelessness is Hope. Hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. Hope is like a reservoir of emotional strength. Hope is a way of fighting off discouragement. Hopeful people are able to face even the most negative times with a positive attitude. And because of the many health benefits of optimism, it significantly improves our mental health.
Benefits of hope include: Makes you wake up feeling positive; Helps you control your emotions; Boosts your immune system; Improves general health; Reduces stress; Reduces joint pain (pessimism causes stress which makes us hold the body in the ways that produce pressure, worsening joint pain); Improves respiration; Is essential for creating self-worth; Reduces anxiety; Improves social relationships; Motivates positive action that leads to real life success; Motivates positive actions that will lead to positive results; Helps strengthen the immune system; Improves social relationships; Makes you happy ; Broadens and builds your mind.
Where can you find hope? Many people rely on their faith in God — spirituality. Other sources include, but are not limited to mental health provider access, medical provider access, generosity (doing good for someone else); healthy activities; mentors; positive friendships and family support.
The Meigs County Health Department participates with the Meigs County Community Prevention Coalition, which recently established a Suicide Prevention Sub-Committee led by Megan Dunfee. The Sub-Committee will be working on initiatives proven to be effective by the CDC such as strengthening economic supports; strengthening access and delivery of suicide care; creating protective environments; promoting connectedness; teaching coping and problem-solving skills; identifying and supporting people at risk; lessening harm and preventing future risks. We need your help! If you are interested in assisting with these endeavors, please join us for our next meeting on Jan. 23, 2020 at 6 p.m. at the Meigs EMA/EMS building located at 41859 Pomeroy Pike in Pomeroy or visit the Facebook page.
In conclusion, a fact is that this time of year can be difficult for many people. Know your presence is a present. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are struggling. There is no shame in asking for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can use the Crisis Textline by texting 4HOPE to 741741.
Please join me in being expectantly hopeful for great things for our nation, state, local communities, family, friends, neighbors and ourselves in 2020. All lives matter.
Courtney C. Midkiff, BSC, is the Meigs County Health Department Administrator.