In 2014, a record number of people committed suicide in La Crosse County, and that number was still high in 2015. But so far this year, the suicide rate is down.
With one month left, the number is on pace to actually fall below the 10-year average of about 16 a year. Health officials aren't sure of the exact reason for the lower number, but they're hoping it's a trend that continues in the coming years
La Crosse County Medical Examiner Timothy Candahl knows all too well the impact of suicide on our community
"I’ve worked over 100, almost 200 suicides in the past 10 years,” he said.
Candahl keeps track of how many people commit suicide in La Crosse County every year.
"Presently we're at 14 for the year, so it's kind of down from past year’s totals, which is a good thing,” he said. “But obviously, one is too many."
Fourteen is down from 22 suicides in 2015, and a record-breaking 26 in 2014. This year's number looks more like those seen in previous years, like 18 in 2013 and 14 in 2012.
Candahl said statistics show the most likely person to commit suicide is a middle-aged man, and that is also true in La Crosse County. However, the number of women who commit suicide has gone up in the area.
"Trends in La Crosse County show an increase in women bucking the trend a little bit,” Candahl said. “This year we're probably…(there’s) at least five or six women who have committed suicide."
Health officials like Gundersen Health System nurse Geri Mulliner said they're not sure why the numbers spiked a few years ago.
"It's hard to say,” she said. “I just hope it doesn't repeat itself."
She hopes this year's lower numbers have something to do with the La Crosse Area Suicide Prevention Initiative and other community efforts.
"I hope it means we have made some progress with community awareness that suicide is a preventable problem that anyone in the community can help,” Mulliner said.
Candahl said there's no specific time of year when people are more likely to commit suicide, but one thing to keep in mind this time of year is SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, can set in as the weather changes.
Mulliner said some signs of being suicidal are a depressed mood or talking about wanting to die, along with agitation, difficulty sleeping, and not taking care of yourself. Health officials encourage talking with loved ones about things like depression and suicide so they’re more likely to get help.