County's suicide rate exceeds the state average; white male suicides lead all demographics
On Friday, representatives from the fields of health care, education, government, and other interested individuals gathered for a Health Data Walk, presented by DHEC. All around the Truluck Gymnasium, posters were set up with different data points on the health of Union County citizens. Topics presented were behavioral health, injury, demographics, cross cutting (which dealt with life expectancy, poverty, and health equity issues), access to care, chronic disease, and maternal child health.
Once the participants had visited each station, they got together in small groups and discussed some of the data that concerned them or surprised them, and then they assigned their top three priorities as to which health measures were most important and why. The answers will be compiled and will guide the former Union County Health Task Force, now named Live Healthy Union, to come up with strategies to improve those areas.
WBCU News spoke with Page Rogers, Community Health Educator with DHEC’s Region 2, who helped coordinate the event. Rogers said Live Healthy Union needed community input to help inform their decisions going forward:
(audio below story)
The data shows Union County’s suicide rate slightly higher now than the state average as of 2018, at 19.8 per 100,000 in population vs. 16.2 per 100,000 statewide. The rate has fluctuated pretty widely over the previous 15 years, reaching its highest point in 2011 and its lowest point in 2014. The suicides are predominantly by white males, with a rate 4 times higher than that of white females and 3 times higher than that of black males. Interestingly, the black female suicide rate was 0 in the data.
The self-harm related emergency department visits were significantly higher than the state average for white males and females, with the rate of emergency department visits related to self-harm highest for white females. The rate for black males was lower than the state average and the rate for black females was close to the state average.
Union County’s homicide rate was also higher than the state average in 2018, at 16.8 per 100,000 in population, vs. 11 per 100,000 statewide. Again, the rate has varied widely over the years, reaching lows in 2004, 2006, and 2009 and hitting its highest point in 2008. From 2003 to 2019, the homicide rate among those ages 29 and younger is 11.8. For those ages 30-59, it is 18.8, and for ages 60 and older, it is 11.2.
One statistic that sticks out is the firearm-related emergency department visit rate. The data was broken down by age group, and every age group in Union County had a higher rate of emergency department visits due to firearms than the state average. Across all ages, the Union County rate is 62.8 vs. the state average of 39. Firearm-related visits are 1.5 times higher for ages 15-24 in Union County, two times higher for ages 25-34, and 2.4 times higher for ages 35-44.
WBCU News will present more health data in the coming days and will follow up with Live Healthy Union once the results from the Data Walk are compiled.