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County suicides down from last year

2006: 11 (8 by gunshot. 2 by hangings and 1 by overdose – 3 were teenagers)

2007: 9 (6 by gunshot, 2 by overdose, 1 carbon monoxide poisoning)

2008: 2 so far (both by gunshots)

The number of suicides in Chilton County is much lower thus far in 2008 than in the previous two years, Coroner Randy Yeargan said.

Cases of teen suicides also have dropped drastically since 2006 for reasons that may include a decline in drug use.

Only two deaths were confirmed suicides in the first half of 2008, compared to nine in 2007 and 11 two years ago.

Both cases this year involved adults, as did all of the suicide cases recorded last year. In 2006, however, three of the victims were teenagers. This was a trend that was beginning to worry Yeargan.

“I’m not real sure why, but the teenage suicide rate has come down considerably in this county over the past two years,” he said. “I wish I knew what to attribute it to.”

All Yeargan can figure out is that perhaps there are fewer teenagers using street drugs than before.

“Most kids we had that were suicides a couple of years ago were also into drugs,” he said.

A decrease in overdose cases may point to a correlation between drugs and suicide, even though the majority of fatal overdoses are attributed to accidents. While two have died from cocaine overdoses this year, there seems to be a decrease in the abuse of drugs like methadone, which is commonly mixed with other drugs, most often Alprazolam (commonly known as Xanax).

“That’s what you typically see in an overdose case around here,” Yeargan said.

Self-inflicted gunshot wounds were the most common type of suicide, and account for the majority of cases handled over the last two and a half years (eight in 2006, six in 2007, and both cases this year).

Overdoses, hangings and carbon monoxide poisoning account for the remaining suicides in the said timeframe, listed in decreasing order of occurrence.

Yeargan saw no trend in the time of year suicides were reported.

“You would think that a lot more of them would be around the holidays, but they don’t seem to be,” he said.

From talking to victims’ family members, the most common motives for suicide are domestic related issues and terminal illness. Yeargan also said that those who are serious about suicide will usually not tell anyone before committing the act.

Depression and anti-social behavior are among the chief signs people should watch for if they have cause to believe a loved one may be contemplating suicide.

“Pay attention to the subtle signs that you might not think anything much [about],” Yeargan said.