Local News

Rate of suicides in NC double that of homicides

Posted November 11, 2021 3:05 p.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2021 5:24 p.m. EST

— More than 7,000 North Carolinians died by suicide between 2015 and 2019, according to data recently released by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

During that period, the state's suicide rate was 15.6 per every 100,000 residents. That's more than double the homicide rate in the state over that time.

"We put so much emphasis on the larger shootings and violent episodes in our country, on homicide and what's going on that way," said Peg Morrison, assistant executive director for NAMI North Carolina. "But the vast majority of gun deaths are deaths by suicide, and they're highly preventable."

Morrison said she had to turn to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other organizations when she needed support.

"When I was in a dark space, I just couldn't picture the day where I would once again breathe easily and feel comfortable in my own skin," she said. "I couldn't picture a day where I would have friends, where I would sleep soundly at night.

"It's a lot of work – it takes time – but you can get there. You can get there," she added. "Sometimes, it's just waiting out those very dark days."

The DHHS data shows that, while the overall suicide rate has decreased over the last few years, the rates among young Black and Asian males has gone up.

"[It's] such a young age for them to see that as the only option," Morrison said.

Researchers aren't sure of the cause for the increase in suicides among those demographics, she said, but they feel it could be connected to social dynamics.

Morrison said the decision of many area school districts to take Friday off as a mental health day is a good start to breaking down the stigma of mental illness and prioritizing mental health.

"Of all the different physical conditions that might require a day off, mental health needs to be in that same category. It needs to be equally acceptable," she said.
Expanding Medicaid and improving access to services for people in every corner of the state would help those who living with mental illness, she said.

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