How to get help
• The national suicide prevention hotline can be reached 24 hours per day at 1(800) 273-8255
• Go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org for information and resources
CUMMING -- Kristen Vaughan thinks about her nephew, Samuel Barrow Jr., every day.
“He loved to hunt and fish,” she said. “He loved the lake, he loved water — he was just your typical teenager.”
In August 2016, the 15-year-old boy, a former Forsyth County resident, took his life — one of a growing number of teens who have lost their lives to suicide in recent years in north metro Atlanta, Georgia and the nation.
While experts are still trying to understand what drives someone to take that fatal action, a recently released report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, shows people living in more rural areas are killing themselves at higher rates than those in more urbanized locales.
Overall, suicide rates are also increasing, prompting the CDC to recommend establishing a “comprehensive suicide prevention [plan] employing a broad public health approach.”
“This might include strategies applicable for all communities along with strategies that address subsets of the population at increased risk, such as rural communities,” the study said. “CDC’s technical package of multisector policies, programs and practices serves as a resource for states and communities to guide decision-making based on the best available evidence for preventing suicide.”
In the last 10 years, Georgia’s suicide rate increased by about 16.6 percent – nearly 1 percent greater than the national average — according to data from the CDC.
From 2013 to 2014, the rate rose by 5.6 percent, double the national increase of 2.8 percent for the same time period.
And from 2008 to 2012, Forsyth County saw 77 suicides, a rate of 9.2 deaths per 100,000 people.
Though county-level data for years beyond 2012 is not yet available, according to the CDC’s recent report, Forsyth’s rate was lower than the average nationwide rate for small metro areas, which were classified as areas with less than 250,000 citizens.
Still, the data is concerning, making local suicide prevention policies necessary, the study said.
“All communities might benefit from strategies that enhance coping and problem-solving skills, strengthen economic support during times of financial hardship and identify and support persons at risk for suicide (e.g., through gatekeeper training, crisis intervention, and effective treatments),” the paper said.
“Reducing access to lethal means among persons at risk, improving organizational policies and culture to promote positive social norms such as help-seeking, supporting surviving friends and family members, and promoting safe messaging and news reporting about suicide to prevent suicide contagion are additional strategies that might benefit all communities.”
For information on what local agencies are doing, reference the Forsyth County News’ investigative series: “Suicide: Lost in the Shadows.”