- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - The Elkhart County coroner says the number of suicides increased in the northern Indiana county in 2015 from recent years.

Elkhart County Coroner John White said his office investigated 27 suicides last year. That’s up from recent years when the number of suicides was in the teens, The Elkhart Truth reported.

The per capital suicide rate in Elkhart County in 2015 was 13.6 per 100,000 residents, just below the average for Indiana in 2013, the most recent year for which data was available, the South Bend Tribune reported.

White said data on suicides in Elkhart County goes back about 13 years. He said the previous high in the number of suicides was 24 in 2007, when he says a slumping economy played a role.

White said there’s no indication why suicides rose in 2015. Elkhart County Chief Deputy Coroner James Elliott said coroners record the manner and cause of death, but that there’s much they don’t know about those who die by suicide.

The Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition has worked in recent years to bring the nationally accredited program Mental Health First Aid to the county. The program is similar to a physical first aid program, but teaches how to help someone who is in a mental health crisis or developing a mental health problem.

Barb Welty, health promotion specialist with the Elkhart County Health Department, said the program focuses on getting people treatment earlier. She said the course has helpful information and facts, but that gives participants a chance to talk.

“The people who have had mental disorders or crises in their lives, whether it’s them or their family members, they say that the class is the first opportunity that they’ve actually felt safe to have a conversation,” Welty said.

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