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Suicides increase in Florida, Tampa Bay area By Kristen Mitchell Tribune staff    Published: July 10, 2015 | Updated: July 10, 2015 at 06:23 PM ST. PETERSBURG — Suicide rates in Florida and the Tampa Bay region are rising, and experts attribute the unfortunate trend to various factors. Among the contributors: hard economic times, a desire for instant gratification and a lack of adequate funding for mental health care. Suicide rates for Floridians — men and women — increased between 2003 and 2013, the last year for which data is available, Florida’s Department of Health reported. The most drastic increase, statewide, during that 10-year span was among white men: from 24.8 per 100,000 to 27.1. Jackie Rosen, director of Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, said Florida ranks near the bottom nationally in per capita mental health funding, which is one reason the state has had a frightening increase in suicides in recent years. “If we can get better availability for services we won’t get this rate increasing as much as it has been,” she said.  Men, who favor more violent methods of killing themselves such as using handguns, are more likely to succeed in a suicide attempt, But women, who steer toward drugs, are likely to make more attempts, Rosen said. The number of women who have committed suicide in Pinellas and Pasco counties has increased significantly during the last decade. In 2013, 77 women and girls killed themselves, compared to 46 in 2005, according to Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s Office data. In Hillsborough County, 49 female suicides were recorded in 2014, compared to 39 in 2005; the number peaked in 2008 with 54, Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office reported.  The statewide rate increased by 1.2 per 100,000 people for white women and by .3 for black women between 2005 and 2013. Economic hardships and violence have contributed to a rise in suicide rates among women and girls during the last decade, the experts say. Suicide prevention counselors with the Tampa Bay Crisis Center received 24,000 calls from females in the first half of 2014, many of whom said they were single mothers, struggling financially, or victims of male violence or sexual assault. “They don’t have the support that is necessary; they don’t know where to go,” said Liza Cepeda, supervisor for suicide prevention services at the Crisis Center. “Suicide is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of people, and when they call they can talk openly to us.” The problem can’t be pegged to a single cause, but the economic downturn in 2008 clearly was a factor, said Mordecai Dixon, the Crisis Center’s suicide prevention services program manager. Women often occupy a caregiver role, and being unable to provide care or support for themselves or children leaves some feeling desperate, he said. “They don’t feel as if they have achieved anything, and hope goes out the window,” Dixon said. “When hope goes out the window so does one’s ability in thinking clearly.” Rosen said men are less likely to seek treatment for mental illness because they fear the stigma and effects it could have, such as losing a job. Men between ages 45 and 65 are at highest risk, she said, because they are likely to see themselves as failures if they perceive themselves to be less successful than their peers and a burden to their families. “Men especially think they can handle it and don’t need help,” she said. Male suicides in Pinellas and Pasco counties were recorded at 187 in 2013, compared with 172 in 2005, but peaked with more than 200 annually between 2009 and 2011, according to the medical examiner’s office. In Hillsborough County, 194 male deaths were recorded in 2014, compared to 144 in 2005. A lot of people don’t realize that suicide runs in families, Rosen said. And unlike families that deal with, for example, breast cancer, families with histories of suicide often don’t talk about it. “If you have suicide in a family, very often it’s kept a secret, and very often people don’t realize,” she said, which adds to the stigma.  But people slowly are getting better about discussing suicide, Cepeda said, and the Crisis Center is getting more calls from friends and family members who are noticing symptoms in their loved ones and want to know how they can help. “It is still a very uncomfortable subject for a lot of people, but we are seeing it’s more out there and talked about,” Cepeda said.  Dixon said while many people perceive suicide as a personal struggle, it’s a community and public health issue and should be treated like one. “We all can own this,” he said. kmitchell@tampatrib.com Twitter: @Kristenreports

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