Editorial: Tennessee above national average for suicide

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 11:21 PM

While Tennessee made great leaps in academic progress this year according to the recent NAEP Nations Report Card, the state is still behind the rest of the country in another worrying category — suicide.

The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network said in their 2013 report that Tennessee's suicide rate is nearly 17 percent higher than the national average — 14.6 in 100,000 people, compared to 12.4 nationally.

Despite the fact that the rate has decreased slightly from previous years, it's still a stark reality that Tennessee has been above the national average for over a decade.

Sevier County hasn't been without its own problems. 

From 2006-2009 the county had rates even higher than the state, topping out nearly 50 percent higher than the state average in 2009 — at the height of the recession.

Fortunately, the numbers have stabilized over the last two years and Sevier County suicide deaths were actually lower than the national average in 2011, the final year reported in the study.

Still, we should remain ever vigilant.

"Our goal is not merely fewer suicides, it is zero suicides," Scott Ridgeway, TSPN's executive director said in the group's annual report. "Suicide remains a major threat to middle-aged adults in our state, and the ebb of the Middle East conflicts means more soldiers trying to reconcile their wartime experiences with civilian life."

Signs to watch for (taken from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or having a suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Their website, suicidepreventionlifeline.org, also provides resources.