PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A new report released by the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office shows suicides increased by 25 percent in 2018 compared to 2017.
The numbers are shocking to those who answer calls every day to deescalate a crisis, but those helpline operators also believe they are getting more calls due to an increase in awareness.
The report showed that in 2018, Palm Beach County had 37 more suicides than the annual average.
That's horrifying to Marietta Williams who has found strength in raising awareness and funds for suicide prevention ever since she lost her brother in 2016.
"My brother was the life of the party. He was the most fun," said Williams, who described how her brother’s smile could light up a room.
John Williams died by suicide at age 50.
"It’s just that one day, that one minute that he just couldn’t see past. It’s how I feel," said Williams.
Coping with her brother's loss has been a struggle for Williams and her family.
"When somebody dies by suicide, you overthink every single conversation you’ve had in the last 20 years. You ask everybody what they thought, what happened. I think that’s the hardest part, the guilt, how one of us could have stopped it," said Williams.
There are more than 200 families in Palm Beach County replaying the same conversations, just by looking at 2018’s statistics. The county medical examiner’s report shows last year 254 people died by suicide, 52 more than 2017. The majority of the victims were between 51 and 60 years old.
"We are finding that it’s impacting people of all ages," said Patrice Schroeder, community relations specialist for 211 Helpline.
The 211 Helpline saw a 26 percent increase in crisis calls last year. Schroeder said it’s possible that the increase is also due to more awareness.
"In general, changes in behavior, people may not be sleeping or eating, participating in activities like they were and you notice that, and also trust your gut instinct," said Schroeder as she described possible signs of suicidal thoughts.
Williams encourages people to listen to others and be more aware. Every year she fundraises for the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by organizing a golf tournament in memory of her brother. On Sunday, June 9 golfers will play the course at the Westchester Golf and Country Club in Boynton Beach to support suicide prevention.
"If we can stop one person, just one person from doing to their family what my brother did to ours, that would be a win," added Williams.
If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, do not hesitate to reach out to someone for help. You can dial 2-1-1 locally or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).