Both Indiana and the country saw suicide rate increases over the past 15 years, according to new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Indiana State Department of Health.
But Indiana’s suicide rate went up 50-percent faster than the national average over the same time period. The state saw a 36-percent increase in its age-adjusted suicide rate from 1999 through 2014. That’s compared with a 24-percent increase nationwide.
Experts such as Counselor Kimble Richardson of Indianapolis’ Community Health Network say there are a variety of factors are at play, including the state’s ongoing opioid abuse epidemic.
“There’s lots of desperation and depression that goes along with [drug abuse],” Richardson says, mentioning people often turn to drugs when they have untreated mental health issues. “Also, sometimes people, when they’re in active addiction use like that…they’re surrounded by people who aren’t necessarily motivated or interested in them getting help and getting clean.”
And Richardson says the state still lags when it comes to people being able to talk candidly about suicide and mental health.
“We’ve been a state that’s struggled somewhat with accepting mental illness as a medical illness,” he says. “I still think there’s been some stigma attached to getting treatment.”
Alice Jordan-Miles of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition says it’s up to a coroner to designate a drug overdose as an intentional suicide or as an accident, although the lines between the two are often blurred.
Jordan-Miles also laments a lack of mental health providers in certain regions of the state, explaining that means people often don’t get the help they need before it’s too late.
“People will go to a primary care provider instead of a mental health provider,” she says, “and primary care providers typically don’t get much mental health training in medical school.”
According to Jordan-Miles, there’s a lack of funding dedicated to mental health education in Indiana, and a “lack of funding available for people to go and get assistance in mental health.”
State health data indicates men are much more likely to kill themselves than women. In Indiana, about four of every five suicides are committed by men. But the proportion of Hoosier women committing suicides is growing, especially since 2009.
The percentage of those suicides committed using firearms has gone up and down, but the average has remained relatively consistent at around 55-percent.
Reporter's Note: If you are considering suicide, there is help available for you. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)