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Economic downturn raising suicide risks

WakeMed reports, 41 people committed suicide in the first quarter of this year. That is a 64 percent increase from 2008.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The economic downturn has had all kinds of affects on families: the loss of jobs, the loss of homes, and the loss of marriages. It can also be behind the loss of life, as the number of people committing suicide, or thinking about it, is on the rise.
WakeMed reports, 41 people committed suicide in the first quarter of this year. That is a 64 percent increase from 2008. The number of people who tried to commit suicide or thought about it rose 31 percent increase.

"There's countless more people than the people we see in the emergency room that are hurting in the community that no one knows about,” psychiatrist Jeffrey Childers said.

A lot of these people are stressed over finances. The Raleigh HopeLine crisis center reported a 100 percent increase in phone calls about the economy from January to March. Suicide calls to the center were up about 40 percent from January to March.

"As a husband who's seen himself as a provider year after year, it's difficult to talk about this with your wife. You feel like you're letting them down and it's embarrassing. They're ashamed and we hear a lot of that," said Courtney Atwood, with HopeLine.

Psychiatrists recommend people try to find an outlet for depression. That is what Cliff Bumgardner, 16, said he did three years ago when was going through a dark period.

"I didn't really have any friends, had no direction, had no hobbies, didn't have anything to put time into and nothing to look forward to," he said.

Bumgardner said his outlet became doing magic tricks, and that helped lift his spirits.

HopeLine can also provide resources and listen to people in trouble. They say family and friends should do the same.

"You can not be afraid to ask, 'Are you thinking about suicide?' The word people tend to shy away from and use euphemisms. That's not the solution. The solution is to ask because most people don't want to go through with it. They're feeling desperate and if someone would just reach out to them that would make all the difference in the world," Atwood said.

Dr. Margery Sved, medical director of Durham Center Medical, a group connecting people with mental health help, points to these potential suicidal signs:

  • Threatening to hurt/kill oneself; talking about wanting to hurt or kill oneself
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself by seeking access to firearms, pills or other means
  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Increasing alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Seeing no reason for living or having a sense of purpose in life
Reach the HopeLine crisis center at: 919-231-4525; for information about HopeLine services or to volunteer, call 919-832-3326.

To reach the Durham Crisis Response Center, call 919-560-7100 or 800-510-9132.

For Johnston County's crisis line, call 919-934-6161.

There is also a national suicide prevention helpline, 800-273-TALK.


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