Suicide rate in Cayuga County remains high, doctors urge mental health local news | Auburn, NY | Auburnpub.com

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As Cayuga County is catching up or surpassing last year’s high suicide rate, local doctors emphasized the need for better mental health resources and support.

Dr. Adam Duckett, who is also the county’s coroner, told Citizen that there have been nine suicides so far this year. Another recent death may reach 10 people, but the official cause is still waiting.

Duckett said the last five of the nine suicides occurred in the past six weeks, which is consistent with seasonal trends.

“Once the weather gets bad, the daylight gets darker-SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real,” he said.

Duckett went on to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made these trends worse. Isolation, economic anxiety and other influences over the past 20 months have had a serious impact on people’s mental health. Duckett cited a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year that found that 40% of American adults reported difficulties with mental health or drug abuse during the pandemic, and 11% had seriously considered suicide. That year, the national suicide rate was 13.6 per 100,000 people. Although this is down from 13.9 in 2019 and 14.2 in 2018, the latter set a record high.

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In Cayuga County, the 12 suicide rate last year was 15.7, which is 14% higher than the national average. The 12 times last year came after 6 times in 2019, 5 times in 2018 and 6 times in 2017.

Similarly, the suicide attempt investigation at the Auburn Police Department remains high. As of the end of September, the department had investigated 191 attempts, compared with 232 in 2020, 190 in 2019, and 221 in 2018. At the same time, as of the end of September, there were 260 mental health surveys, compared with 354 in 2020, 339 in 2019, and 309 in 2018.

With the number of suicides and related investigations in Cayuga County surpassing last year’s figures, Duckett believes that the lesson should be better access to mental health resources and provide more support for those seeking these resources. As the chief medical officer of Auburn Dongshan Medical Center, he said that he has been in contact with community partners to achieve this goal in small steps.

For example, Duckett wants to see doctors be able to refer patients to mental health services like other experts. He also believes that it is not just primary care providers who should be able to manage prescriptions for patients whose mental health problems have stabilized. He said that in general, care providers “need to change the way we communicate with each other.”

Duckett went on to say that the way other people communicate about mental health also needs to change. The stigma of needing help due to anxiety, depression, and other problems often prevents people from seeking help. Therefore, he hopes that the community can work hard to eliminate this stigma like the people who have recovered from opioid addiction in the past decade.

Duckett said the process usually starts with the person closest to the mental health problem. Whether it is simply asking them about their situation or actively encouraging them to seek help, these people may be able to save lives. For those with mental health problems that lack this support, Duckett has outlined the options for seeking help in a concise way.

“If you have cancer or diabetes, would you feel embarrassed? This is a disease that needs to be treated,” he said. “Don’t be ashamed of being sick.”

The contact information of Lake Life editor David Wilcox is (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net.Follow him on twitter @drwilcox.





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