Chippewa County suicide rate may be higher than numbers show - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Chippewa County suicide rate may be higher than numbers show


Chippewa County (WQOW) - There are no easy answers to a troubling trend in Chippewa County. The County's suicide rate has been climbing the last three years. Last month alone, four people took their own life.  The county is reaching out in new ways, before it's too late.

"In Chippewa County, in the past three years, we have been proportionately higher than the state average when it comes to suicide," says Larry Winter, Director of Human Services in Chippewa County.

Twelve suicides this year: a number the coroner says may be even higher.

"We have seven to eight cases that are in various stages of investigation. Some of them have been determined to be accidental just because of lack of evidence," says Ron Patten, Chippewa County Coroner.

Ron Patten says he believes at least two deaths ruled accidental were probably suicides.

 "We have to have a note or a text message, something really concrete that we can go by. If we don't have enough, it has to be ruled accidental," Patten says. "For instance, on a person that overdosed on drugs, those are very hard to prove because the person may be taking them for pain or they may want to end their life because of whatever problem they have. If we have a gunshot wounds, a drowning or a hanging, we usually have enough evidence to prove that person wanted to do that to themselves."

Accidental death is treated very differently than a suicide by life insurance companies.  Most do not pay if the death was the result of a suicide.

"Even in depression or with severe health problems, a lot of them are still thinking about their family and they know that's the only way they can help them yet," Patten says.

"So, the question is: why is this trend different in Chippewa County?" Winter says.

The county does not have any firm answers as to why the suicide rate is higher.  It's trying to be proactive to reach those in need.  Training has been available for teachers and first responders. A suicide prevention line is available 24/7 and a brochure is being made that will be available in schools, hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

"It's going to give you specific things to watch for as far as warning signs of suicide.  It's going to give you specific information about where to call and also what services are specifically available in the Chippewa Valley," Winter says.

The county says every adult age group has been affected -- from 18 to 90 years old.   Health experts believe the earlier you recognize mental health issues the more treatment options you have, but there are concerns people are slipping through the cracks.  Chippewa County has taken a proactive approach.  Through a committee, the county has focused on mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention.  The new brochure is set to be out within a month.

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