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Heat, Bad Economy Blamed For Uptick In Suicide Attempts

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September 8, 2011 by wcobserver

by Timothy D. Dennis

WEST FORK – The month of July, for many Americans, has been a very difficult period. Week after week brought temperatures near or above 100 degrees, and the U.S. labor force shrank to its lowest size since 1983.

Depression is a factor in more than 60 percent of suicides, according to figures from the American Foundation for Suicides.

Suicides were a big news item last month. The Army suffered a record 32 suicides during the month. The West Fork Fire Department responded to an increasing number of suicide-related calls.

“We’ve had two or three this last week,” said fire chief Mitch McCorkle.

Out of 38 total calls, the department responded to between ten and 12 suicide-related calls in the month of July, McCorkle reported to the city council at its August 9 meeting. He listed family fights, drug overdoses, car wrecks and the excessive heat as reasons for the high rate of suicide-related calls. He could not give a specific number of suicide-related calls when asked for verification, but McCorkle said that there have been more recently than he could remember in his 51 years of working in the fire department.

Most often, calls involving suicide turn out to be suicide threats rather than attempts, said Steve Harrisson, assistant fire chief and paramedic for Central EMS.
“July was busy, probably busier than most as far as suicide threats and suicide attempts,” Harrisson said. “We’ve gone from someone thinking or feeling like they’re going to do something to themselves to people who have done it and died.”

Anytime someone calls 911 with thoughts of suicide, both first responders and police are dispatched, McCorkle said.

“The police go and check to see if the scene’s safe before we go in,” McCorkle said.
Once the scene is cleared, first responders and paramedics move in to treat the patient for self-sustained injuries and to see what they can do to calm the person, Harrisson said.

Although they do not make up the majority of the departement’s medical calls, McCorkle says, suicide calls do make up an increasingly larger part of the department’s medical calls, which make up about 90 percent of all calls.

“Seems like a year or two years ago, I believe probably 60 percent of our calls were diabetic emergencies. Now we still have some but not anything like as many as we used to have. And then seems like you go for a while with people having chest pains and stuff like that,” McCorkle explained. “Kind of runs in cycles.”

Help is available through the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Center, at 479-756-2337

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