By RACHAEL LONG
Alarming data released Wednesday by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) shows a more than 24 percent increase in suicide deaths among children, ages 10-17. From 2015 to 2017, that increase was 54.5 percent.
Three Tennesseans die each day from suicide, making it now the ninth leading cause of death for the state.
“One death by suicide is one death too many,” TSPN Executive Director Scott Ridgeway said in a press release on the data.
In a comparison of two consecutive years, the Tennessee Department of Health’s Office of Health Statistics reported 1,163 recorded suicide deaths in the state in 2017. That number, according to TSPN, was 53 more deaths than the year before.
The Network compiles and analyzes suicide data each year from the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into a report called the “2019 Status of Suicide in Tennessee.” The report includes breakdowns of trends across age, time, race, gender, economics, methods and more.
In a breakdown of suicide deaths over the years, the report shows that since 1981, the overall rate of deaths have increased five percent, from 571 deaths in 1981 to the 1,163 in 2017.
Why have the numbers of suicide deaths increased so greatly? According to the TSPN report, it’s because the stigma surrounding suicide resulted in family members claiming a suicide death was an accident or the result of natural causes. So while the stigma gradually loses its sting, TSPN says record-keeping practices also improve and lead to a phenomenon of an apparent increase in rates but also guarantees that numbers are more accurate.
The report in its entirety can be found here.
Ridgeway also noted, given the increase in death by suicide among Tennessee children, the Network is working with the transition team for Governor-elect Bill Lee to improve prevention efforts.
In its press release, TPSN states, “With that said, we must, as a state, increase our efforts to combat this public health crisis. For every number and rate that is provided in the ‘2019 Status of Suicide in Tennessee’ report, a family member, loved one, neighbor, co-worker, and friend suffers an unimaginable loss.”
To learn more about TSPN, to get involved or to request a suicide prevention training, visit the TSPN website here.