GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The number of suicides in Kent County may have hit a record high in 2017.
According to the Healthy Kent Suicide Prevention Coalition, there were 89 deaths by suicide last year. There are still 23 death investigations to be completed for the 2017, so the number of recorded suicides could rise.
Kent County also saw 17 suicides before March 13, 2018. Most of those who died were in their 30s.
Those types of numbers and his 15-year-old son’s suicide have led former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple to push for change.
“The numbers … are the culmination of when things go wrong,” Hipple said. “Depression, loss of hope, stress out of control, post-traumatic stress that doesn’t get treated or doesn’t find a way to improve, that ends up in deaths. And that’s what we’re trying to change.”
He said people with a problem need to be able to talk about it in a positive way.
Hipple was in Grand Rapids Tuesday to address the topic with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan’s Be Nice campaign. He spoke at the local Ronald McDonald House, which he said is the only house in Michigan that works with families of children dealing with mental illness.
Hipple said he dealt with depression when his professional football career ended, but never sought help. Then after his son Jeff died, he felt responsible because he had never talked about it and wasn’t able to be there for his son.
Breaking the stigma around mental health is step one, he said. The next step is making sure people who are struggling have access to help.
“Just talking about it isn’t the answer, but it’s a start,” he said. “Because ultimately the younger generations do talk, but we have to give them the resources now. That means we have to give them availability to treatment. … The resources have to be there.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255