COLUMBUS (AP) — Health officials dealing with a spate of youth suicides in a northeastern Ohio county are getting help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Officials say five students and one former student from the Perry Local School District in Stark County killed themselves within a six-month period from 2017 into 2018, spurring vigils, prevention efforts, community meetings and discussion about a possible contagion effect.
CDC representatives were expected to visit Ohio starting Monday and spend about two weeks studying what has happened in Stark County.
“It’s just like anything else, any type of outbreak — you kind of have to stop and look at the data around what’s happening to see if there can be anything gleaned differently to kind of stop this current rate of what’s happening here,” said Kay Conley, the county health department’s spokeswoman.
Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Melanie Amato said the state agency sought the CDC’s help at the request of local officials. Amato said the CDC will focus only on Stark County, though youth suicide is a concern around the state.
ODH data shows Ohio lost more young people to suicide in 2017 than in any of the previous 10 years. The state had at least 111 suicides last year involving people who were 19 or younger, and that number could rise as coroners finalize their reporting on deaths from the last few months of the year.
During the previous decade, the annual totals had ranged from 61 in 2013, to 98 in 2008.
The majority of Ohio’s youth suicides involve people ages 15 to 19, but the reports also include younger students and rare instances involving elementary-aged kids.
The state keeps online listings of suicide-prevention resources for schools and college campuses, and officials urge individuals in need of help to call the national suicide prevention hotline.