Dougherty Co. suicide rates climb during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 12:39 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Doughtery County Coroner Michael Fowler said suicide rates have climbed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said so far in 2020, there have been around 11 or 12 suicides.

However, he said those numbers are usually what the county sees for an entire year.

Fowler said financial stress and family issues are some of the factors behind those deaths and very seldom are they related to medical conditions.

Tift County Coroner Josh Hendrix said they haven’t seen an increase in suicide cases as a result of the pandemic.

Lee County Coroner Hill Mackey said there haven’t been any suicides directly related to the pandemic in Lee County.

However, it’s a little early for any data to associate suicide deaths to the pandemic, according to Dana Glass, a licensed clinical social worker with Aspire Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Services.

“What I can tell you is we have a behavioral health crisis center and we have certainly seen an increase in the number of individuals that are in a crisis situation,” said Glass.

Glass said they have seen an increase in mental health needs such as anxiety and substance abuse, during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said isolation during a time when everyone is social distancing is definitely a factor.

“Absolutely, we’re hardwired to connect,” said Glass.

That’s not the only factor, Georgia’s rise in unemployment claims is also causing an impact.

“Unemployment, if you look at it throughout history, is associated with an increase in suicide deaths and substance abuse, overdose type deaths,” Glass explained.

Glass said there are several different resources to help right now.

The Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line is available 24/7, free and a volunteer trained in crisis counseling can help. That number is 1-866-399-8938.

There is also the 24/7 Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which can be reached at 1-800-715-4225, and help is available 365 days a year.

Aspire also has a crisis center staffed 24/7 to help.

“So, somebody that is in need can walk in and access help all on their own, does not have to be sent by a professional, you don’t have to be sent by law enforcement or anything like that. You can just walk in and access help,” said Glass.

The crisis center is located at 601 11th Avenue in Albany and the numbers for them are (229) 430-1842 and (229) 430-6005.

Glass said there are things you can do at home to help with stress and anxiety. She recommends exercising, whether that be safely working-out at a gym or walking around your neighborhood.

She also recommends staying in the present. She said you should focus on what’s happening now and not worry about the future.

Glass said you can do this by using your senses like smell, taste, and sight, and that you should connect with friends and family on the phone and talk to them often about anything and everything to help relieve some stress.

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