While prescription drug abuse has contributed to a number of deaths, Jessamine County Coroner Michael Hughes said the county’s suicide rates is pretty scary as well.
Since 2009, the coroner’s office has investigated 16 suicides, Hughes said.
“Usually, it’s the middle-aged — someone going through a messy divorce, or it’s a child-custody thing, or they feel like the family has turned against them,” Hughes said. “Middle age is the most prominent (age) for suicides, but again, we had a 19-year-old boy this year.”
Hughes said the suicide rate in Jessamine County is slightly higher than the drug-related death rates.
The coroner said the county saw eight suicides in 2011 compared to five in 2009, two in 2010 and one in 2012, as of July 25.
“It’s a disturbing trend,” Hughes said. “We haven’t had a lot this year, (but) when you have 65 to 70 deaths, and you have 10 of them that are overdose, and probably five or six suicides a year, to me, that’s significant.”
Sabrina Walsh, Ph.D., director of the Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System (KVDRS) and a professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, said Kentucky’s suicide rate is high.
“We are above the national norm,” she said. “If you look at the whole United States, Kentucky’s rate is much higher than the nation’s.”
Walsh said KVDRS uses a crude rate formula to come up with its figures.
“We've taken all the suicide deaths across the United States from 2005 to 2009. The denominator is the population of the United States (during that time period) all added together,” she said. “Then you find out the rate of violent deaths during that time period in the United States. Then you take Kentucky's suicide data, and you take the number of suicides from 2005 to 2009, and put Kentucky's population on the denominator, and that gives you the rate of suicides in Kentucky.”
According to Walsh, between 2005 and 2009 (the latest data available), the suicide crude rate in Kentucky was 13.47. During that same period, the national rate was 11.51.