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‘Devastating’: Suicides in Bibb County are happening at an alarming rate this year

She lost her husband to suicide in 2008 but just recently told their children

Kyle James, an addiction counselor for Coliseum Health System, talks about the loss of her husband from suicide in 2008 and how she told her children. James spoke at a suicide awareness symposium Thursday at Riverside United Methodist Church.
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Kyle James, an addiction counselor for Coliseum Health System, talks about the loss of her husband from suicide in 2008 and how she told her children. James spoke at a suicide awareness symposium Thursday at Riverside United Methodist Church.

Bibb County had 15 suicides in all of 2018 but is already closing in on that number this year.

On Wednesday Bibb had its 12th suicide of the year, according to Coroner Leon Jones. That would be on pace to exceed the 24 suicides the county saw in 2017, which was the most in Jones’ 29 years with the coroner’s office.

Houston County Coroner Danny Galpin said there have been five suicides in Houston this year. Three of those happened recently over just two days. He also said there were 27 suicides in the county last year.

According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control in November, the national suicide rate increased 33 percent from 1999 to 2017. In 1999 there were 10.5 suicides per 100,000 population nationally, while there were 14 per 100,000 in 2017.

Jones said he doesn’t have an answer for cause of the high rate in Bibb this year, but he said it’s alarming.

“Suicide is something very close to me because I had a good friend do it,” Jones said. “Suicide is devastating to the victim’s family and friends. You always wonder if there was anything you could have done.”

That was the very subject of the annual suicide awareness symposium put on Thursday by Coliseum Health System. Ordinarily the event focuses on prevention, but this year it was about how to help those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

Dr. Cesar Figueroa, a Coliseum psychiatrist, said the grief process with suicide is different from other types of death because of the sense of guilt that survivors often feel.

“You want answers,” he said. “Why? ... How did I not see that coming?”

Anger at the person lost to suicide is also common, and complicates the grieving process. As a result, Figueroa said, survivors tend to get “stuck” in the grieving process and never get to the point that allows them to reach the final phase, which is acceptance.

Kyle James, an addiction counselor at Coliseum, also spoke at the symposium. In 2008, she lost her husband to suicide, and she talked about her struggle to recover.

He was a Marine who fought in Bosnia, and came home with post traumatic stress disorder, James said. They had two children, a daughter who was 11 months old at the time of his death and a son whom she found out she was pregnant with four days after he was buried.

For years, she never talked to the children about how their father died. Only three months ago did she tell them the whole truth about what happened, and that has helped with the healing process, she said.

“Before I wouldn’t talk about their dad because I was so scared they would ask questions,” she said. “Now we talk about him and the way he lived. ... I actually gave them their father back.”

Asked what she would tell those who have lost someone to suicide, she said “The number one thing is to take the blame out of your vocabulary and take the blame out of yourself. Forgiveness starts with self forgiveness and that takes time.”

Among the common signs of people who may be at risk of suicide are social withdrawal and loss of interest in things that the person once cared about. But often, mental health experts say, there are no signs.

The symposium was held at Riverside United Methodist Church, attended by about 80 counselors, emergency responders and others from around Middle Georgia.

Anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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