Pasco Has the 4th Highest Suicide Rate in State
The sheriff's office hopes raising awareness will help lower this number.
Suicide isn’t something that’s pleasant to talk about.
But the Pasco County Sheriff felt the need to do so on Wednesday. He shed the light on the issue of suicide during a press conference. A coalition of professionals were also present to discuss avenues for suicide prevetion.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times, it’s not talked about until something bad happens,'" said Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Pasco has the fourth highest rate of suicides in the state, according to state stats. It is tied with Sarasota County.
In 2010, there were a total of 89 suicides in Pasco, according to state statistics. That statistics take into acount all age groups.
The county often exceeds the state average for youth suicides, according to the sheriff’s office.
The county’s rate for youths 21 years old and younger who committed suicide by any means was 3.67 per 100,000 residents in a three-year period spanning 2007-2009. The youth rate for suicide by non-firearm means was 2.0 per 100,000 for the same period.
Pasco Sheriff’s Deputy David Riffe has personal experience dealing with the tragedy of suicide. One incident stands out in his memory.
In 2010, he responded to a callout about a teenager threatening suicide. He made contact with her. What she then said chilled him.
“She said, ‘If you’re a good person, please leave here now,'” Riffe remembered.
He told her he had daughters her age and could work and talk with her. The girl, who was communicating with someone over a cell phone at the same time, looked at him and said:
“‘Sir, if you have daughters, please go be with them. You don’t want to be here for this.'"
He continued to try and talk to her. A backup unit arrived. She finished her phone conversation, pulled out a handgun, stuck it in her mouth and killed herself.
Up until six months ago, it haunted him.
“She was 17, same age as my daughter,” he said.
He finally got help and was able to move forward.
He said he knows that young lady had made up her mind to do what she was going to do.
“But I do question: Prior to that point, could we have made a difference? Could we have intervened before that moment and stopped her from doing that?”
Doug Leonardo, executive director of BayCare’s mental health division, said Pasco's suicide rate was high, but the data for youth non-firearm suicides was “staggering.”
Some of that is attributable to substance abuse and overdose. Both synthetic drugs and prescription pill addiction are problems in Pasco, he noted.
Leonardo cautioned parents to be vigilant. Kids are also communicating differently than ever before. Today’s technology encourages isolation.
Parents need to be acutely aware of what's going on in chat rooms and in email and texts.
“Parents sometimes feel it would be an invasion of their child's pivacy to look at texts or some of that,” Leonardo said. “I look at it as you’re saving a life.
Signs to look out for include:
- individuals looking tired
- falling performance in school
- lack of interest
- lack of performance in taking care one self
- sudden mood swings from sad to happy.
Nocco called the press conference in recognition of September being Suicide Prevention Month and also because he notices suicides regularly when he goes to work and reads the morning report.
Last year, more than 2,700 Pasco residents were taken into custody under the Baker Act, the state law that allows for involuntary psychiatric examination of people. That's hgher than past years.
Most Baker Act cases the sheriff’s office see are ones in which the person taken into custody wanted to hurt themselves, sheriff’s office spokesman Kevin Doll said.
Nocco said that if you notice someone is troubled "get them help. It doesn't make you any weaker when you ask for help. It makes you weaker when you don't ask for help."
National Alliance on mental Illness information referral line
Veterans Suicide Crisis Line
Pasco Aware: Suicide Prevention Task Force
Meets Oct. 19 at 2:30 p.m.
Email David Chamberlin for the meeting location and details Dachambe@pasco.k12.fl.us
BayCare Behavioral Health Registration
Mental Health and substance Services for kids and adults
ASAP Alliance for Substance Abuse and Prevention
Poison Control Center
Life Center of the Suncoast
6811 N. Central Ave. Tampa, Fl, 33604
Healing After a Loved One's Suicide Group
Meets 1st, 3rd Wednesday
Suncoast Kid's Place
17030 Lakeshore Rd.
Lutz, Fl 33558