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Peoria County faces increasing rate of suicides; men, veterans in particular

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County Coroner Jamie Harwood says the average case of suicide in the county was a 42 year old man. County Coroner Jamie Harwood says the average case of suicide in the county was a 42 year old man.
PEORIA COUNTY, Ill. (HOI) -- -

In Peoria County, the total number of reported deaths is up compared to last year - and with it, the number of suicides. And the primary demographic may surprise you.

"Right now we're looking at an average age of about 42," explains County Coroner Jamie Harwood. "Most of the data that we have right now from Peoria County are males in the 40-to-50-year-old age range."

Speaking more generally and using previous year's data, Harwood says that the most-affected group are men between 20 and 40. 

A more specific correlation, though: a third of the suicides this year have been military veterans.

"I think that there's also that stigma effect where, they're tough, they're strong," says Holly Bill, Assistant Manager for the Hult Center for Healthy Living. "Maybe they don't think that they can reach out for help or that they wouldn't be susceptible to depression or suicide."

Bill explains it's something that many adult men - not just veterans - share: a resistance to seeking help, to instead 'tough it out.' 

Suicide is by no means an easy subject, and feelings of depression and anger can be hard to broach. But Harwood says that the most important thing you can do to help is to start the conversation.

"For families, if they have something that triggers in their mind, they think something's not right, reach out to that person," says Harwood. 

Despite awkward or uncomfortable conversation, both Harwood and Bill agree that being open to talking is some of the best support you can offer.

"There is hope," said Harwood. "I want people to know there is hope."

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