McHenry County suicides now trending down; mental health board says prevention efforts paying off

Shaw Media file photo
McHenry County crisis worker Holly (right) lights the candles of those, whose lives have been touched by suicide, gathered at the Woodstock Square for a remembrance program in response to the disturbing increase in suicides in the area.
Shaw Media file photo McHenry County crisis worker Holly (right) lights the candles of those, whose lives have been touched by suicide, gathered at the Woodstock Square for a remembrance program in response to the disturbing increase in suicides in the area.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Suicides are at a seven-year low in McHenry County.

“We’re working hard to address the issue of suicides and even lower that number,” said Scott Block, McHenry County Mental Health Board executive director.

Block said the number of suicide deaths in McHenry County dropped from 35 in 2015 to 21 in 2016. As a result, Block said he’s hopeful that the downward trend will continue with the suicide prevention resources the county has to offer.

The Mental Health Board partnered with the local suicide prevention task force a couple of years ago in response to an increase in the number of suicides in the county.

“We think there’s a correlation between the recent collective efforts throughout the community and our reduction in numbers,” Block said. “Suicide prevention is an effort that must be embraced by an entire community. If we all try to achieve a reduction in suicides together, I think we’ll see those direct impacts.”

According to statistics from the McHenry County Coroner’s Office, the number of suicide deaths in the county last year was almost half the number of deaths in 2012.

Erin Williams, a clinical psychologist and manager of crisis services with Centegra Health System, said she also believes the recent decrease in suicides is because more people are taking advantage of resources such as Centegra’s McHenry County Crisis Line.

“Here at Crisis, we help people who are having suicidal thoughts,” Williams said. “And we’re also here for people who are experiencing a crisis triggered by some other significant event.”

Williams said Centegra offers a support group two times a month where family members can get help from others coping with similar situations.

“Anybody who is experiencing a crisis – whether it’s triggered by a significant event, years of stress or a mental illness – should call us, and we can provide support over the phone. We can also meet with the individual face to face,” Williams said.

Another resource for people suffering from a mental illness and having suicidal tendencies is National Alliance on Mental Illness – McHenry County, a nonprofit, volunteer-based organization.

“We partner with other local organizations such as Centegra and work with the Mental Health Court to solve the problem together,” said Kathy Ross, executive director at NAMI – McHenry County.

Ross said the volunteer organization worked with 1,255 people last year, offering free educational classes to those living with depression and for family members who want to learn more about the disease. Ross said NAMI also is planning to start a bilingual support group for Spanish-speaking families.

“There’s lots of need in McHenry County,” Ross said. “So the whole goal of NAMI is to help people better understand mental illness, not be afraid of it, be equipped to intervene and not stand by or watch it escalate.”

To help area students deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, the Mental Health Board is teaming up with local schools – including in Community High School District 155 – to provide educators with suicide prevention training and resources.

“We’ve recently worked with District 155 and trained approximately 200 of their staff and faculty,” Block said. “Next, we’ll be working with Woodstock North, and then in April, we’ll be working with Marengo High School to get their staff well trained.”

Even though McHenry County is at a seven-year low, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that from 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S. increased by 24 percent.

Anyone feeling depressed is encouraged to call the McHenry County Crisis Line at 800-892-8900.

McHenry County teens also can use the mobile app, “MCHELP,” to connect with trained, licensed mental health counselors. To use the service, students can type in the code “MCHELP” and send their concerns to the McHenry County Crisis Center.

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