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Father-son suicides refocus attention on growing problem

Apr. 10, 2013
 
Oshkosh Northwestern Media

Less than 48 hours after his 17-year-old son committed suicide, the teen’s 41-year-old father took his own life at a Bent Avenue residence Monday morning.

The uncommon tragedy is a reminder of the impact suicide has on the community, said Doug Bisbee, executive director of Community for Hope of Greater Oshkosh, a suicide prevention and awareness agency.

“We certainly grieve with the families and friends,” Bisbee said. “This really knocks the wind out of the community. It is a community issue and it will take the entire community pulling together to address the issue.”

The two deaths continue an alarming trend that led to an all-time high of 32 suicides in 2012, include three teens, said Winnebago County Coroner Barry Busby. There have been 11 suicides in Winnebago County this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national suicide rate is 12.4 per 100,000 residents. With a population of about 170,000, the suicide rate in Winnebago County is about 50 greater than the national average. Yet Bisbee notes that suicide numbers are increasing throughout the country.

“For whatever reason we are going through a tough time right now,” Bisbee said.

Police have not released details of either death. Community for Hope of Great Oshkosh, a non-profit organization aimed at supporting suicide prevention, intervention and grief support, was formed in 2001 after a rash of teen suicides in Oshkosh.

The group is one of a number of elements put in place to educate the public about warning signs and trying to lessen the stigma that makes individuals and the community reluctant to discuss suicide. Bisbee said there is still a lot to learn about what factors contribute to a person deciding that ending their life is the only solution.

“There’s still such mystery with suicide,” Bisbee said. “We don’t seem to understand exactly what’s leading to it at this point.”

Warning signs to watch for include changes in mood or habits, a lack of energy, giving possessions away, increased drug or alcohol use or a sense of hopelessness.

“We do know there are things we can do and are doing to lower the numbers,” Bisbee said. “But we’re really waiting on more research because there’s still a lot we need to learn.”

Jennifer K. Woldt: (920) 426-6676 orjwoldt@thenorthwestern.com

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