Suicide Attempt in Falmouth Adds to Growing Statistic
By: Brent Runyon
A Centerville man stepped into traffic on Locust Street in Falmouth Friday morning in an apparent suicide attempt, the latest incident in a grouping of suicides and attempts in town this month.
In September, Falmouth police have responded to two apparent suicides and at least two suicide attempts. A 54-year-old man died apparently by hanging on September 4 at his home on Sam Turner Road in Falmouth. A 53-year-old woman apparently killed herself by asphyxiation on September 7 at her home on Sandwich Road. Additionally, a 39-year-old woman, formerly of Falmouth, committed suicide in Bourne on September 4, police said.
Falmouth Police Sergeant Douglas M. DeCosta said police have responded to 29 suicide attempt calls this year, already exceeding 27, the total from all of last year. In 2008, Falmouth police responded to 20 suicide attempt calls.
“I don’t want to sound alarmist, but it’s worrisome,” said Timothy H. Lineaweaver, chairman of the Cape and Islands Suicide Prevention Coalition.
He said that public health officials are aware of the reports of suicides and are investigating the details to see if there are any connections between the deaths.
The Cape and Islands has a higher rate of suicides than the rest of Massachusetts, although Massachusetts has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, Mr. Lineaweaver said.
The two deaths in Falmouth earlier this month have not been officially classified as suicides. The final determination on the cause of a person’s death is made by the state medical examiner after an autopsy.
Last weekend, police responded to two suicide attempt calls in Falmouth. A 46-year-old man from Centerville stepped into traffic on Locust Street, Falmouth, Friday morning and was struck by a Steamship Authority bus. Police said they were responding to a report of a suicidal man in the area at the time.
The man was taken to Falmouth Hospital and later moved to Boston for treatment of his injuries. He was still in the hospital in Boston this morning.
Police also responded to a report of a 55-year-old woman who attempted suicide by overdosing on medication on Sunday evening at her home on Teaticket Highway.
Earlier this year, there were two other separate incidents in which someone died in Falmouth after a self-inflicted gunshot.
In 2008, the most recent data available from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there were 499 suicides in Massachusetts, a rate of 7.7 suicides per 100,000 people.
The four apparent suicides in Falmouth this year, a town of approximately 30,000 people, would put Falmouth above that average, Mr. Lineaweaver said.
Falmouth police requested the assistance of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Services on Friday, said DMH spokesman Anna Chinappi. If there is a trend in suicidal behavior, Falmouth could be eligible for additional assistance in suicide prevention training and crisis counseling from the state, she said.
Elizabeth A. Albert, director of human services for Barnstable County, said that there is often a gap in communication between public health and public safety personnel, partially because of the secrecy and stigma associated with suicide.
She said the county has done outreach in Barnstable, but has not had any formal sessions in Falmouth yet.
Maura Wilson, director of the Samaritans of Cape Cod and the Islands, said her group received 21,000 phone calls in 2009, the most calls in the past 10 years.
During the first eight months of this year, she said the Samaritans have received over 14,000 calls and are on pace to exceed last year’s total.
“People can feel as though they are very much alone and struggling with the direction of their lives,” she said.
The difficult economy is one factor. “For some of our callers it’s the frustration of not being able to find work, but I don’t think that’s the number one reason,” she said.
Most callers are suffering from depression, she said. “So many of them can’t even get out of bed in the morning,” she said.
Volunteers listen to the callers’ problems and try to help them, she said. “The goal of Samaritans is to help people find solutions to their own problems,” Ms. Wilson said.