Lee County Coroner reporting alarming increase in suicide


LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – An east Alabama coroner sounds the alarm concerning an increase in the number of people who are taking their own life.

Lee County Coroner Bill Harris has been the coroner in Lee County for twenty years. Harris tells News 3 he is deeply concerned with the number of recent suicides he’s responding too and is urging families to be aware.

“It appears in lee County we have had an abnormally high rate of suicide this year. I know in the last 30 days I have had at least seven suicides I can think of which is unusually high considering we normally have between 15 and 20 in an entire year,” shared Harris.

Harris reported in 2016; Lee county had 15 deaths ruled suicides. In 2017 suicides increased to 23. In 2018, Harris recorded 21 suicides. So far in 2019, there have been 20 suicides, and there are still four months left in the year.

“It’s a serious situation, and it’s not just prone to Lee County, it’s happening all over. Just be aware of the people you know and love. If they tell you they don’t want to live anymore, please don’t discredit that. Please don’t,” urged Harris.

News 3 spoke with licensed psychologist Dr. Polly Dunn who says a combination of family struggles, job pressures, finances, health conditions, and mental health are factors leading to suicide.

Dunn says before many act they mention having suicidal thoughts to friends or family, which is frequently a call for help.

“My best advice and the first step is to ask someone if they are having thoughts of hurting themselves. It’s scary to ask that question, ‘Are you considering suicide.’ However, all the studies have shown, asking someone if they are wanting to hurt themselves leads to a decrease of them doing it, not an increase. So don’t be worried it will cause someone to do it, that is not the case,” said Dunn.

Dr. Dunn says if a friend or loved one affirms they are thinking about hurting themselves, there is help available. Dunn says most every person has been impacted by suicide or depression weather it involves themselves; a loved one or a friend. You are not alone, and the issue is nothing to be ashamed of.

“The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is one of the best resources we have available to us for free. Anyone can call. It could be someone who has thought of suicide; it can be a person who is worried about a loved one or family member who is contemplating suicide,” shared Dunn.

“The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.”

September is National Suicide Prevention Month across the United States. Dr. Dunn is urging people who are having suicidal thoughts to reach out to family members, friends, or their physician. You can even call 911, and they will help you.

Get Help: Suicide Prevention Lifeline

“The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline know it is possible to reduce deaths from suicide like we have reduced heart disease fatalities and other leading causes of death. For every person who dies by suicide annually, there are another 280 people who have thought seriously about suicide who don’t kill themselves, and nearly 60 who have survived a suicide attempt. “

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: The five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention.

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