|Association For Suicide Prevention chart, based on data to 2016; click on it to view a larger version|
“Anytime there’s a public figure, it affects a great many people,” Debbie Helms, co-chair of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention’s Northeast region, told the Globe. “Celebrities impact the whole country.” Calls to suicide-prevention centers rose after the two deaths.
Kentucky has a higher-than-average suicide rate, greater than five of the seven adjoining states (the exceptions being West Virginia and Missouri). The rate has increased in almost every state since 1999, to the point that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., with 123 per day, more than the number killed in automobile accidents, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Kentucky, suicide ranks 11th as a cause of death.
Kentucky's suicide hotspots are Marshall County, which had 49 from 2012 through 2016, and Grayson County, which had 35. Per 100,000 population, respectively, the counties' suicide rates were 29.2 and 26.2. The rate for the entire state was 16.79, 20th in the nation.
Young people have the greatest risk of being influenced by widely reported suicides, Boston psychiatrist Blaise Aguirre, who specializes in adolescents at risk of suicide, told the Globe. “When you have these young people already thinking about that and some of their idols are dying by suicide, it sort of — in their thinking — makes it more acceptable in a certain kind of way,” he said. “It seems like somewhere between 14 and 24, in that age range, they are particularly vulnerable.”
The "suicide contagion effect" seems to have been heightened by the rise of social media, Aguirre said: “For many years, if somebody famous died by suicide, you might read about it later in the newspaper, but young people weren’t necessarily in the habit of reading the papers. Now, there is the ability of this news to spread rapidly.”
Aguirre and other experts said that makes it all the more important to speak openly about suicide and reduce the stigma that often surrounds mental-health issues, "and making sure loved ones know they aren’t alone," the Globe reports. For warning signs of suicide, go to suicide.org.