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Mid-South Near Top in Suicide Deaths

More Americans now die from suicides than car crashes, according to a new study from the “American Journal of Public Health.” When it comes to suicide rates the Mid- South is near the top.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - More Americans now die from suicides than car crashes, according to a new study from the “American Journal of Public Health.” When it comes to suicide rates the Mid- South is near the top.

That public health study showed a 25 percent decrease in deaths from car accidents while suicides have risen 15 percent in the United States.

“Tennessee ranks thirteenth or fourteenth in the nation in terms of suicides,” said Mike Labonte of the Memphis Crisis Center.

One reason the study attributed to a rise in suicide rates is the estate of the economy.

“We don’t want to say, well it’s just the economy,” emphasized Labonte.

But, bad economic news is a contributor, especially when American self-worth is factored in.

“It has always been tied into your ability to earn your way,” noted Benaye Rogers, Executive Director of Contact Crisis Line. “These are not just material concerns. I mean, when most people lose their jobs they lose their sense of identity.”

At the Memphis Crisis Center the volume of suicide calls has increased significantly.

“Last year we got about 550,” Labonte told abc24.com. “This year we’re looking at 800, and the year’s not over.”

“Suicide deaths are up significantly,” Rogers said, “particularly over the last 12-18 months.”

“The last year for which we have statistics was 2010 in Tennessee; there were over 930 suicides in the state that year," Labonte said.

Compare that to the current total of traffic fatalities for 2012, listed at 736 as of September 24 on the State of Tennessee website.

“Automobile fatalities have always outnumbered suicide,” said Rogers, “now those numbers are getting smaller.

Smaller, like the economy.

“We really are a society tied into our economics,” Rogers told abc24.com, “and when they’re not going well it’s very difficult for us to rebound.”

Labonte emphasized that while bad economics can play a role in suicide, most cases involve multiple factors. 90 percent of people who die from suicide have mental health issues.

The Memphis Crisis Center does need volunteers. Visit memphiscrisiscenter.org to learn more.

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