Rock County sees no youth suicides for first time in years
JANESVILLE -- Youth suicide numbers in Rock County went against the national trend in 2016, and that's not a bad thing if you ask Tony Farrell Sr., volunteer director of the Rock County Suicide Prevention group.
In Rock County, no individual in 12th grade or younger committed suicide last year, Farrell said.
Nationwide, suicide is the second-largest cause of death for teenagers ages 12-18, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last year was the first year in “several” that Rock County saw zero youth suicides, Farrell said.
Schools and youth groups in Rock County deserve some of the credit, Farrell said. He has seen these groups recognize the warning signs of suicide and increase awareness in recent years.
Anti-bullying campaigns are largely effective toward preventing youth suicide, Farrell said. He is proud of Rock County schools that have made this a priority.
Farrell has worked throughout the county to prevent suicide for 10 years, he said. He has dedicated his life to the work.
“This all comes from the heart,” Farrell said.
This year, he has structured his presentations around the theme “one is one too many.”
While suicides were down last year, he won't stop working until the total is zero, he said.
Rock County had 25 adult suicides in 2016, Farrell said. That total was shared with Farrell from Barry Irmen, Rock County medical examiner.
Suicides decreased 20 percent from 2015, when there were 31 suicides, Farrell said.
In the last 10 years, the fewest Rock County suicides was 14 in 2007, and the most was 34 in 2011, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
In 2016, there were 46 calls for attempted suicide, according to the Rock County Communications annual report.
All 46 calls ended with a saved life, Farrell said.
Farrell credits the Rock County Communications Center staff for its ability to help people quickly.
“The reason lives are saved is because our 911 center is so efficient,” Farrell said. “Chances are if you call that 911 center out there, you will get someone in a second.”
Rock County's 911 center is the only accredited 911 center in the state, Farrell said.
When it comes to medical emergencies, every second counts, Farrell said.
From losing a family member, Farrell understands the pain associated with suicide, he said. He encourages everyone to reach out to those affected and those who need help.
To continue seeing fewer suicides, Farrell believes it will have to be a group effort from the Rock County community, 911 center, first responders and schools.