Middle-aged suicide rate spikes in RI

The suicide rate in Rhode Island is spiking for middle-aged people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the economy and unemployment is a contributor to depression, but local suicide prevention groups say that's only part of the issue.

Among the beautiful paintings at The Samaritans of Rhode Island's Forget-Me-Not Gallery, Karl Daniels can remember the good times with his mother.

"She used to make me chocolate Hershey bar sandwiches for school," Daniels said. "I still have a sweet tooth today because of it."

Here Daniels also feels comfortable discussing suicide and how his mother took her own life.

"My father found her," he said. "She had overdosed on some of her psychiatric meds and kind of walked away to a little field area."

As a suicide survivor, Daniels knows this is a painful, personal issue.

He said he hopes more people take notice of the CDC's latest revelation: from 1999 to 2010 it found suicide went up among middle-age people.

Rhode Island saw the third largest spike, with an increase of 69 percent in people between the ages of 34 and 65.

"I wasn't surprised," Denise Panichas, Executive Director of The Samaritans of Rhode Island, said. "The majority of callers to the Samaritan's listening center are primarily middle-aged and particularly men."

Panichas said her group reaches out to middle-age people through their website and hotline. Last year, volunteers took more than 4,300 calls.

The CDC said the economy is a factor in this uptick. Panichas agrees to an extent, but she said tough financial times don't cause suicide, but prevent people from getting help.

"We'll say, 'Can we call 911 for you?' And they'll say, 'No,'" Panichas said. "'The reason is, I don't have the money. I don't have the insurance. I don't want to put my family further into debt.' And so that for us is a barrier to care."

Panichas said with more people struggling they need help finding resources.

Daniels said he hopes with these latest statistics more people will be more willing to reach out and help.

"When you get into that place when you're really down you need someone to help lift you up," he said.