Suicide spike during shelter-in-place; DuPage County officials warn community and advise help

Medical Watch

DUPAGE COUNTY, Ill. — A surge in suicides has been reported in the suburbs.

The increase was noted in DuPage County in the first six months of the year during the shelter-at-home order. And now the coroner in that community has issued a public plea.

DuPage County Coroner Dr Richard Jorgensen issued a letter to the community. Compared to the same time period in 2019, when there were 44 deaths by suicide, this year there have been 54 on record between January 1 and June 30.

“We can go over and visit our friends and families. We can wear masks. We can call them,” Jorgensen said. “This lack of socialization, no question, about it has really, really hurt our society.”

Taking a closer look, 20 of the deaths occurred before the COVID-19 lockdown, 34 came after. The ages of the deceased ranged from 19 and younger all the way to 80-plus years old. The majority were white males. There may be warning signs.

Geri Kerger is the executive director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Dupage County.

“If a person is very upbeat all the time and that starts to change, sleeping patterns start to change, something someone was really interested in they no longer want to do,” Kerger said. “I’ve seen people they’ve started giving away possessions.”

Jorgenson said specific groups are at higher risk. In his investigation, he found common threads among those who died by suicide:

  • Previous history of depression or mental health issues
  • Financial, marital or personal problems
  • Living alone
  • Struggling with present addictions
  • Previous addictions but were sober

“Those factors were present in literally every single case,” he said.

Mental health advocates have their own public plea, reach out.

“The hardest thing for most people is that first step,” Kerger said. “And we are all happy to help that is what we are here for.”

Accidental overdoses are up as well. In 2019 there were 95 overdose deaths in the county.

Jorgensen said there have already been 70 in the first six months of this year.

“This isn’t something that is passing. This isn’t something that is in the past,” he said. “I think it’s something we need to worry about more and more as the days get shorter and nights get colder. We need to reach out to our family and friends.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness tells us they have had an uptick in calls during the pandemic which means more people are reaching out.

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