Archive for Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Suicide rate in Douglas County doubles in 2010; Headquarters counseling center offers suicide resources, warning signs

Headquarters Counseling Center director Marcia Epstein closes her eyes as she listens to a Wichita caller routed through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009, at Headquarters. The center recently received a $1.4 million federal grant for statewide suicide prevention efforts.

Headquarters Counseling Center director Marcia Epstein closes her eyes as she listens to a Wichita caller routed through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009, at Headquarters. The center recently received a $1.4 million federal grant for statewide suicide prevention efforts.

January 4, 2011



If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the free service at 841-2345, or the national suicide prevention hot lines at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


Number of suicide deaths in Douglas County per year.

  • 2006: 21
  • 2007: 18
  • 2008: 11
  • 2009: 11
  • 2010*: 22

*Through Dec. 17.

Source: County coroner’s office

At the end of a year when suicides increased in Douglas County, local prevention and counseling experts encouraged people to remain keyed in to warning signs and encouraged those affected by suicide to seek help.

It’s available in a wide variety of places in Douglas County. Marcia Epstein, director of Headquarters counseling center, said if anyone calls Headquarters, 24 hours a day, counselors can help direct the caller to assistance.

Douglas County has a higher rate of suicide deaths than the national average, and Kansas ranks 19th among the 50 states.

“Kansas is high, and Douglas County is high,” Epstein said.

Last year, through Dec. 17, 22 people had died by suicide in the county, according to records from the county coroner’s office. That’s up from 11 suicide deaths each in 2008 and 2009.

Dating back to 2006, more men than women died from suicide, and the ages ran the gamut from 13 to 88.

But numbers don’t often tell the whole story, Epstein said. Behind the numbers lie many other people whose lives are deeply affected, including mothers, children and friends.

National statistics, however, show that suicide can affect everyone, Epstein said.

“You can’t just know that kind of demographic information about someone and say that person is safe,” she said.

Epstein provided some tips for people who are concerned about someone who may be contemplating suicide.

One suggestion: Don’t be afraid to ask “Are you thinking about suicide?” if someone appears to be in a bad spot. And show concern by actively listening, she said.

Everyone’s heard of suicide, Epstein said, so it’s very unlikely that a concerned person would plant the idea in someone’s head.

“We have the chance of helping by getting it out in the open,” she said.

If the person says yes, then don’t ignore it and seek help, Epstein said.

Co-workers and friends can watch for other indicators. Look for signs of loss, she said. In older people, that can mean the death of family members or friends, and in younger people, it can mean not making the sports team, or suffering the loss of a relationship.

Other potential signs someone may be in a deep depression or contemplating suicide include:

• Not showering or shaving for days on end.

• Suddenly acting more aggressive than usual.

• Sleeping all the time.

• Being unable or unwilling to eat.

• Long-lasting painful emotions.

• Thoughts about not being capable of handling one’s own emotions or feelings.

Those signs may not always lead to suicide but are good indications that other issues may be present, including depression or anxiety, Epstein said.

And it’s a good idea to limit access to lethal means like firearms, razors or large amounts of medication, too, she said.

Though it’s a myth that more suicides occur during the holidays — summer typically sees more suicides, she said — it’s an issue that the city and the community face all the time.

“Unfortunately, we deal with the issue of suicide every single day,” Epstein said.


dizzy_from_your_spin 7 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Darrell Lea 7 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Realista 7 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ObiWan 7 years, 5 months ago

Many thanks to Marcia and everyone else at Headquarters for giving everthing they can to help save the lives of others.

Realista 7 years, 5 months ago

All the "comments" were removed by staff? How did the comments violate the "usage agreement?" I'm new, I read the agreement, and my comment on eliminating suicides by Lawrence investing in it's youth to provide them with opportunities did not violate anything. The high suicide rate is frightening and should be taken seriously. should not post articles nor offer a "Comment" section if readers are not FREE to comment. At least email the blogger if something is deemed offensive or edit the comment, that would be fair journalism.

wmathews 7 years, 5 months ago

Hi Realista, We took down multiple comments because we felt they were hurtful to those who have been affected by suicide. You are absolutely free to comment on within the terms of service, and I'd love for you to keep doing so. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions via message on the website or via email at

Whitney Mathews Assistant Community Editor for Online

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

As I've mentioned before, I think that removing comments because somebody's feelings might be hurt is a bad idea.

And, as far as I know, it's not part of the terms of service.

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 5 months ago

I believe that the terms of service are whatever the staff decides they are on a case by case basis.

Posting on this or any other site that you do not own is a privilege, not a right.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

If that's the case, then what is the point of having a written set of terms?

Why not just be honest and say we'll do whatever we feel like doing?

I guess that wouldn't look good for the paper, since newspapers have been at the forefront of the fight for freedom of expression for many years.

Realista 7 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence youth need to be cared for and invested in. They are bored! No mall, movies are too expensive, no arcades, school is not challenging, careers are scarce, and the hourly wage is way too low. Human beings need a "reason" to keep going. We live in a global economy so the "small town" appeal of Lawrence is non-existent. With cable and satellite Lawrencians are aware of other cities and cultures and it's depressing when you look around and see that the establishment is not willing to change to keep up with the world.

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 5 months ago

Why do you assume that most of the suicides are teenagers or young adults?

kansasrose 7 years, 5 months ago

This statistic is really upsetting to hear, and I can assure you from personal experience that behind those numbers are families and friends and co workers and neighbors who feel that loss every, single day. I do not know why Lawrence has a higher rate of suicide than other counties. What I do know is that we are blessed with the amazing resource of Headquarters. When one is in crisis, sometimes that happens at 2 in the morning, sometimes that person is unable to get themselves to a hospital, sometimes that person needs at first to make contact with a trained person. Headquarters provides this service and it does not cost the caller a thing. We can spend a lot of time wondering on this forum about why Lawrence has a higher rate. But I suggest that instead of wondering why, we spend our time keeping our eyes and ears and hearts available to those people in our lives who are vulnerable. Think about the person at work who has missed alot of work. Reach out to them. Think about the neighbor you notice has little contact with others, or whose behavior has changed. Call them, offer your support. Ask your son or daughter how they are dealing with the end of that relationship or not making the team or being bullied at school.... keep the lines of communication open! And unfortunately, sometimes even with alot of support from others and access to mental health resources, suicide still happens. Regardless, keep trying. Keep reaching out. A simple call to someone and asking, "how are you doing?" can be the start of someone getting connected to the help that they need! I know!

rikkiends 7 years, 5 months ago

Thanks to the LJWorld for covering this important topic (and also for moderating the comments)! Headquarters and its staff/volunteers offer a valuable service to our community.

Lori Jo Phillips 7 years, 5 months ago

How so, oneeye_wilbur? You are the only one to mention LMH or Bert Nash. The article reports the true 2010 suicide statistics for Douglas County and gives people information about a non-profit suicide prevention center. Are statistics not to be reported? It's a tragedy that the numbers are going up. Thank you to kansasrose for the insight and information. Thank you to Marcia Epstein for helping so many people in need. We all need to be aware of this crisis.

Bruce Liddel 7 years, 5 months ago

My brother once exhibited all of these symptoms: • Not showering or shaving for days on end. • Suddenly acting more aggressive than usual, especially towards himself. • Sleeping all the time. • Being unable or unwilling to eat. • Long-lasting painful emotions. • Thoughts about not being capable of handling one’s own emotions or feelings.

I was referred to Bert Nash MHC, and when I finally managed to physically get him there, all they wanted to do was find out how much money they could make off this Medicaid patient, and to protect all of his info from me. I thought sure he was going to bolt. Maybe he wasn't suicidal - he is still alive (as far as I know anyway). If there is ever a next time, I'm calling Headquarters.

EarthaKitt 7 years, 5 months ago

Golly LJW. I think using "jumped" in the lead of this story might have been a poor choice of words. Especially in light of one of the top stories of 2010. I know it's tough to scrutinize every word of every story, but even through my haze of inappropriateness this one was glaring. Sorry to be so picky.

wmathews 7 years, 5 months ago

Good point. I changed the word "jumped" to "increased" in the lead.

ahyland 7 years, 5 months ago


Let me add my own thanks to Whitney's — definitely a poor choice that's worth changing.

Andy Hyland

Mari Aubuchon 7 years, 5 months ago

  • In the past couple of years, suicide rates have increased in many countries around the world, including the US. In fact, I could find several articles that were mirror images of this one from around the country and several more from Europe and Asia.

-Suicide affects all ages. Those over 65 have the highest rate of suicide, followed by the middle aged, then young adults, and, finally, teenagers.

sissezz 7 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Realista.... Lawrence doesnt offer enough for the youth. No skating rink, no arcades, the indoor pool is a joke, and the library is just plain scary...... if your child is between the ages of 13 and 16 GOOD LUCK!!

Hadley_says 7 years, 5 months ago

If it is a youth boredom issue, what do the kids do in Claflin Kansas..... or Wellsville....or Olpe... or Winchester?

Really, a lack of malls and arcades leads to suicide? Don't think so.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 5 months ago

Dunno but when I lived in Lamar, MO (pop. 10k and that only because it was the county seat), the kids would go up to the square on Friday and Saturday night and drive around and around and around the courthouse. I asked my daughter (17 at the time) why she didn't date any of the local boys. She said, "Why mama? All the boys around here are interested in is getting drunk, getting laid and fixing up there trucks!" She finally found a nice boy who worked in the kitchen of a group home for mentally disabled adults. I would let them take my car and drive to Joplin (a thirty minute trip) just to go to the movies. I doubt very seriously it's changed much.

buttchops 7 years, 5 months ago

I so wish there had been Headquarters Counseling Center, or something similar, in southern Oklahoma when my son was planning his suicide. Agencies whose hands were tied, and therefore were of no help, were the ER, the police, and the counseling center in Ardmore. Those of you with the deleted comments may not realize how what you are saying sounds to someone who has had a relative or friend suicide. HCC, Marcia and the people in SOS helped me understand that I will never know the reasons, that whatever I'm feeling is appropriate and probably needs to be talked out, and that I'm not alone. Thank you, especially to M.E., S.H., E.F-Z., and R.F. for being there when I need you.

WilburM 7 years, 5 months ago

First of all, almost every suicide represents some kind of tragedy and one that affects many people.

Second, kudos to Headquarters and all other folks who work on this important issue.

Third, except in the most limited sense, suicides in Douglas County are not going up. Over the past five years, the average number of suicides has been 16.6. Five years, and small numbers and predictable variations are just not enough to warrant a full-blown escalation in concern. Obviously, there should always be awareness and a capacity to intervene. But unless there's an increasing surge over several years, this is no more of a problem than it was five years ago or three -- a serious one, but not necessarily an increasing one. (Were there celebrations when the numbers went down previously? Or a change in effort?)

Ron Holzwarth 7 years, 5 months ago

My younger brother committed suicide eleven years ago yesterday. He made the decision to do so, and he is the one responsible for it. No one should ever blame themselves for the decisions and actions of another. To put yourself in agony over the decisions and actions of another will only bring you even more grief.

I am comforted somewhat by the fact that he had a genetic heart condition that was terminal, and even if he had not committed suicide, he would have died in the meantime anyway. However, at the time, the medical opinion was that he had a few more years without having his quality of life severely compromised. Apparently my brother did not share that opinion.

Usually I'm not terribly upset by the events that happened eleven years ago, but I am finding this difficult to write. I dream about him sometimes, and sometimes I think of something that I want to tell him, and then with a start, realize that I cannot.

Something that does bother me is that suicides are all lumped together. People that have terminal diseases, such as my brother, or other people that are in the last stages of horrible diseases, are all remembered as having committed suide. Not much thought is given to the fact that many elect to end their life in order to avoid terrrible suffering later.

To anyone that has lost someone close to suicide, I want to tell you, it does get better. You will come to be more accepting later, after the initial shock is dimmed. However, do not expect that terrible sinking depressing feeling to ever go away altogether.

And to anyone that is in good health and really feels that you want to die, I want to tell you that you probably are suffering from depression. That can get better, it really can. Talk to a doctor, there are quite likely physical reasons for you to feel the way you do, and there are medications that can help. Do not let the stigma of mental illness keep you from getting better.

jafs 7 years, 5 months ago

I'm very sorry about your brother.

Even though it was his choice, and might have made sense to him at the time, it still is obviously a huge loss and tragedy for you, and others who loved him.

My experience with grief mirrors yours - it gets better, but never simply goes away.

Rae Hudspeth 7 years, 5 months ago

Many thanks to Headquarters, both for their services and the many valuable training sessions that they have provided to our community on a variety of issues other than suicide. I have Marcia and the staff there to thank for a number of reasons, including my knowing how to help someone very close to me who was on the verge.

I'd like to point out one other "sign" of suicide that I haven't seen mentioned is suddenly giving away prized possessions, and talk of "it will all be over soon."

Watch out for each other, it's a tough road out there for many of us.


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