BERLIN – Suicide rates among youth in Worcester and Wicomico counties are higher than the state average, according to recent numbers from the state and local health departments.
Suicide rates were 16 percent higher in Worcester County from 2012 to 2014 and 33 percent higher in Wicomico County, compared to Maryland’s average suicide rate.
These statistics come with the start of World Suicide Prevention Month, a campaign that spreads mental health awareness each September.
A culmination of factors, including school transition and upcoming holidays, leads to more suicides during this time of year, according to Ronald Pilling, secretary and treasurer for The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund.
Pilling says rural counties, like Worcester and Wicomico, are not immune to suicide.
Suicide attempts are higher in rural parts of the country, where firearm ownership is high and residents are less likely to seek and receive help from mental health professionals, according to Pilling.
The National Association of Mental Illness finds one in five adults is struggling with a mental illness.
“Everybody knows someone at this moment struggling with a mental issue,” Pilling says.
Maryland saw almost 10 suicide deaths for every 100,000 people in 2014, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, ranking the state No. 46 in the nation. The national average in 2014 was approximately 13 deaths per 100,000 people.
“Maryland has enjoyed low rates of suicide,” Pilling says. “[Statistics] are basically telling us Maryland is an urban state.”
However, some counties in Maryland have always held higher suicide rates than the state average, according to Pilling. Among those counties are Wicomico and Dorchester.
The Jesse Klump Memorial Fund formed its Suicide Awareness and Prevention Program in 2009 after Snow Hill High School student Jesse Klump lost his life to suicide.
Kim Klump, president of the Memorial Fund, has since helped start outreach programs in Worcester County that spread awareness of suicide.
A part-time outreach coordinator who works with the Memorial Fund has created curriculum and events for churches, schools and other venues, according to Klump.
These events span beyond Suicide Prevention Month to cover all months of the year and focuses on teaching individuals suicide First Aid and to recognize and address the signs of mental health issues.
“You don’t have to be a cardiologist or a doctor to save a life,” Pilling says.
Klump also hosts meetings and events geared to helping those who have lost someone to suicide.
These meetings, held the third Wednesday of every month, started in September of 2011.
Klump says the events and resources the Memorial Fund provides can direct people to health professionals, psychologists, life coaches and more.
Klump says she began these meetings when she found no support group in the area.
According to Klump, the area’s tourist destinations, in culmination with its rural setting, makes Worcester County a hotbed for at-risk people.
Pilling adds that an influx of veterans to the lower shore area has allowed the Memorial Fund to expand its outreach and efforts to focus on suicide among these individuals.
The Memorial Fund’s prevention and awareness program is currently partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Worcester County Health Department and Atlantic General Hospital for the 5th Annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk for Suicide Prevention in Ocean City.
The event, set for Sept. 24, will raise money for national and local organizations. In the past four years, the walk has raised $126,000.
Registration for the walk starts at 9 a.m. at Caroline Street and the Boardwalk. After opening remarks by Senator Jim Mathias, the procession will walk solemnly to 10th Street, turn and walk to the Inlet, then back to Caroline Street. Volunteers are welcome to join the Planning Committee and assist on the day of the event. Individuals interested in volunteering can contact Brittany Hines at [email protected].
Beyond this month, Klump says she is planning events for survivors of suicide every Saturday in November before Thanksgiving.
These events will coincide with International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.
These events, located at the Zenna Wellness Studio in Berlin, will have videos, panels, food and more.