A national health issue
Sadly, Comer's story is hardly unique.
"Suicide is a national health issue, said Debra Graham, head of the Compassionate Hearts Support Group and chair of the Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who lost her son to suicide in 2004. "In the United States, every 16 minutes someone dies by suicide, claiming more than 32,000 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with nearly one million people attempting suicide yearly."
According to the New York State Office of Mental Health, more people die from suicide than homicide every year in the U.S. It is the 11th leading cause of death for all Americans and the third leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. In 1999, the CDC reported that more teenagers and young adults died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke and chronic lung disease combined.
It's also a problem in New York state. Approximately 1,300 New Yorkers take their own lives every year; for every death, there are anywhere from eight to 25 attempts, according to the New York State Department of Health. Approximately 150,000 teenagers in the state attempt suicide every year; 70 succeed in taking their own lives.
Comer said Central New Yorkers are especially susceptible.
"Central New York has a higher suicide rate than the rest of the state -- it's around 7 percent in New York, but close to 13 percent here," Comer said. "We're not sure why. There's speculation that it's because this is a more rural area, especially in Oswego and Madison counties, where there isn't as much in the way of mental health facilities."
Suicide Prevention Week
So what can we do to lower those rates?
Nationwide, there are a number of efforts to reduce suicide, the largest being National Suicide Prevention Week, which goes from Sept. 6 to 12 this year. The week is sponsored by the American Association of Suicidology and aims to raise awareness of a significant problem and draw attention to solutions.