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Michigan health officials address suicide after high-profile deaths

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For many, suicide is sensitive topic that carries a stigma. 

But Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says it’s something we need to talk about. 

“Suicide has always been an issue that we have tracked for decades and decades because it is an issue of public health concern, it’s why the Centers for Disease Control tracks it,” Dr. Wells said. 

In fact, a new CDC report finds suicide rates have gone up 25 percent across the United States over nearly two decades. Here in Michigan, it’s worse, there was an increase of 33 percent. 

Researchers found that more than half of people who died by suicide did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. 

Steve Windom, Michigan area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says that finding points to a lack of education about mental illness. 

“We’ve found that these people were displaying significant signs and symptoms of a mental illness, mainly depression, anxiety, bipolar or personality disorder, those major ones that really creep up, but their loved ones didn’t know, and that also speaks to the ability to mask this,” Windom said. 

Experts added that if you have concerns, now is the time to have those conversations, especially in the wake of the high profile suicide deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. 

“It’s a myth that people used to say well if I ask if someone’s considering suicide then that might prompt them to do it. Actually that’s not true, that is a time to share your concerns with a loved one or friend and say, I’ve noticed you’ve been feeling down,” Dr. Wells said. 

Experts say what we can do is make sure our loved ones know they’re loved and know there are places and people out there who care and want to help. 

“We have to empower those who are suffering and accept them and support them, and let them know that they’re not different,” Windom said. 

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. 

For information on Michigan suicide prevention resources, click here
 

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