Coroner is concerned that local suicides are on the the increase

Published 10:35 pm Saturday, September 20, 2008

The alarming number of suicides in the county this year has the coroner worried and he is asking family members and friends of distraught people to pick up on possible clues to mental distress.

If the clues are observed, then family and friends can set about getting the person the help he or she needs before it is too late.

Since the first of this year, there have been about eight confirmed suicide cases in the county. While other cases, such as substance overdoses, could be classified as suicide Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said those cases did not have enough evidence for him to classify them that way.

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“Some times those numbers are skewed down,” said Gulf Coast Mental Health county coordinator Kimberly Sauls.

The disturbing thing is that four of this year’s eight suicides have taken place in the past three-and-a-half weeks, Turnage said.

Family members should be aware that many times there are warning signs a person close to them is considering suicide, things such as getting their affairs in order, calling long lost friends and family or even by a verbal statement.

“They say it in passing but the family member doesn’t take it seriously,” Turnage said.

Some other signs a person is considering suicide include substance abuse — or an increase of it, depression, withdrawal from family and friends, a sudden interest in owning a weapon and lack of emotion.

“That’s things to be aware of. There’s no way we can help that person once they’re gone,” Turnage said.

Suicide might seem like the answer to difficult situations, but a sudden death in a family complicates the mourning process for those left behind, Turnage said.

If a person is considering suicide, or if family members have noticed the signs, there are avenues for help. Turnage said calling the Pine Grove outreach office at 601-799-0844 or going to the emergency room at Highland Community Hospital can help. Sauls, a licensed clinical social worker at Gulf Coast Mental Health, said that during operating hours people can get help by walking into the agency’s office at 211 U.S. 11, which is across the street from Picayune’s soon to be completed Train Depot.

If a person needs help after hours, he or she may call Gulf Coast Mental Health at 1-800-681-0798 and leave a message. An on-call licensed counselor will return the call in a timely manner, Sauls said.

Chancery Clerk David Earl Johnson said there also is help at the county level, if the patient doesn’t have substance abuse problems or pending charges against him or her. If the person in question does have a substance abuse problem, then that person first will have to attend treatment for that problem. A private institution can help those with pending charges.

Family members can ask the patient to seek help, or, if the person is unwilling, commit them. Johnson said people with the mental capacity to know they need help can voluntarily seek help while those who refuse help and clearly need it can be committed by going through court.

Johnson said there are two facilities used by the county for those who are committed: The Gulf Coast Crisis Center and Whitfield. About 70 percent of the patients admitted to the Gulf Coast Crisis Center are prescribed medication and are released within 15 days. Those patients can then go back to a normal life.

A problem with medication involves a lack of money to purchase the medication, or the patient will begin to feel better after a short time and stop taking the medication. Some people also stop taking the medication because they don’t like the side effects. No matter the reason, patients who don’t take their medicine will begin to suffer the same mental stress they had before treatment.