The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

City commission hears grim facts on suicide



Ironwood — Pat Gallinagh had some grim statistics for the Ironwood City Commission on Monday.

The suicide rate in Ontonagon County is the highest in the state and Gogebic County ranks seventh among the 83 counties, he noted.

The Ironwood resident, a former area educator and high school football coach, believes the lack of psychiatric counseling on the Gogebic Range plays a big factor in the high suicide rate here, in addition to alcohol and drug abuse and the availability of firearms.

“The scarcity of mental health services, alcohol and guns are the top three factors,” Gallinagh said.

The city commission approved a resolution proclaiming Sept. 10-16 as Suicide Prevention Week.

The proclamation recognizes suicide as a national public health problem that claimed more than 44,000 lives last year, the third leading cause of death among individuals between 15 and 24.

Twenty percent of all suicide victims are veterans and the active armed services is experiencing its highest suicide rates ever.

A total of 49 percent of people who die by suicide use a firearm, and guns stored in the house are used for suicide 40 times more often than for self-protection, the proclamation states.

Keeping guns away from people who show signs of depression can cut the suicide rate, Gallinagh said.

Gallinagh, 71, who works tirelessly for the Range Suicide Prevention Council, stresses suicide is preventable, but said the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide works against prevention by discouraging people who are at-risk from seeking help.

He also said it’s a myth that suicides are carefully planned, as they are often impulse actions during highly depressed mental states.

The latest statistics, which may be two years old, show the suicide rate in Ontonagon County is 24.8 among 100,000 people, while it’s 21.1 in Gogebic County.

Gallinagh said there’s hope in that suicide is a treatable disease. If depression goes untreated, however, the risk of suicide highly increases, he said.

“Nobody gets a pass from this,” Gallinagh said, also referring to family members of suicide victims.


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