The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) reported on Thursday, September 17, 2020 that rates of suicides have been increasing at an alarming rate over the past several years, and indicates the rate of deaths by suicide increasing as the impact of COVID-19 continues. Over the first six months of 2020, there were 54 deaths by suicide, compared to 44 during the same time period in 2019, an increase of 22.7 percent.
Among the 54 deaths by suicide in DuPage County from January through June 30, 2020, there were 20 deaths that occurred before the COVID-19 lockdown, and 34 that occurred after the lockdown was initiated statewide in Illinois on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The ages of the deceased ranged from the teens to 80-plus. The majority of deaths involved white males.
The Coronavirus pandemic began to affect Illinois when awareness of the first two Illinois COVID-19 illnesses were confirmed on Friday, January 24, 2020 and Thursday, January 30, 2020. The mysterious illness from China — first identified in Wuhan, the Capital of Hubei Province, China, and caused by the SARS-Co-V-2 virus — affected an Illinois couple. The man and woman were the first and second coronavirus patients in Illinois. They were also declared the first known case of human-to-human transmission in the United States. The man, who was diagnosed about Friday, January 30, 2020, contracted the virus from his wife, who was the first Illinois case, and was diagnosed about January 24, 2020. She was also the second known COVID-19 case United States. The woman, in her 60s, had recently traveled to Wuhan, China to care for her sick father. The woman’s husband had not recently travelled to China. Both were treated at AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and released back to their home where their health was monitored daily under the guidance of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
Health officials in Illinois in late January 2020 initially emphasized that there is “no local emergency,” as the risk of contracting coronavirus in Illinois and Chicago remains very low.
Addressing mental health concerns has been listed in the Impact DuPage’s top 3 health priorities for our community. More recently, data provided by DuPage County Coroner, Richard Jorgensen, M.D. “Death by suicide is particularly difficult because it represents the premature end of a life, made worse when occurring in young people, leaving family, friends and the community with grief and unanswered questions,” Dr. Jorgensen said.
An evaluation of each case of death by suicide revealed the deceased person had a history of mental health issues, depression, personal, financial or marital problems, as well as previous drug dependence or rehabilitation, were divorced, never married or living alone, Dr. Jorgensen reported.
“The despair that leads people to making the decision to end their life indicates a sense of hopelessness that is unimaginable. Making sure that all residents and the people in their lives know they are valued, loved and that there are effective treatments that can help are critically important, and very real steps to take,” said Karen Ayala, DuPage County Health Department Executive Director.
Stress is all around us, particularly with the increased anxiety and uncertainty with COVID-19, that stress is extremely understandable, but if symptoms worsen, you may need the help of a professional to assist you in the process.
DCHD advises that if a person is thinking about suicide, or is worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, DCHD’s Crisis Services is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 630-627-1700. Visit www.dupagehealth.org/183/Crisis-Services for more information.
In DuPage County, other services are also available …
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.
DuPage County Health Department (DCHD)- Behavioral Health Services. A wide range of services are available for DuPage County residents who are experiencing symptoms related to mental health or substance use, which may be impacting your daily life. Treatment programs are offered at our public health centers in Wheaton, Addison, Westmont and Lombard.
Additionally, DCHD offers Caring Contact Cards to engage individuals in behavioral health services and are currently being sent to individuals enrolled in the Crisis Services Follow-Up Program. The goal of Caring Contact Cards is to communicate care and concern and build connection through colorful, inspiring messages to those at increased risk of suicide. On some cards, consumer art is added as a source of inspiration and to communicate messages of hope to those in need of support.
Help is also available from other sources, including:
The Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances. If someone you know is suffering from an opioid use disorder or other substance use disorders, call the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances at 1-833-2FINDHELP to speak with a trained professional for support and advice or to be directed to customized resources or visit HelplineIL.org.
Call4Calm. This free textline is available if you or someone you know needs emotional support. Text TALK to 552020 for English or HABLAR for Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers seeking assistance remain anonymous and will provide only their first name and zip code, which enables the service to link you to a counselor in your area who is knowledgeable about available local resources.
Veteran’s Crisis Line. To reach caring, qualified responders within the Department of Veterans Affairs, connect with the Veterans Crisis Line. This free support is confidential, available 24/7, and serves all veterans, service members, their families and friends. Call 1-800-273-8255 or text: 838255. Support is available for the hearing impaired, call 1-800-799-4889.
To learn more about the many services offered by DCHD, please visit www.dupagehealth.org.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, During September, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness.
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