What Do We Know About Suicides in Rensselaer County?

Next week I am headed to the  3rd Annual New York Statewide Suicide Prevention Conference. Each year it grows and it’s great to see New York State to bring together National, State, and local initiatives together to share best practices.

One of the strategies in New York State Suicide Prevention Plan is to increase and ensure we have the most accurate data on suicide loss. This will assist state, county, and local municipalities develop strategies to address these problems.  Also to build our funding, New York State wants coalitions to take a data-driven approach.  To this end New York State has opened health data by population and county to help us better understand hat we need to build healthier communities.

As I began to look at the data I thought educating the community about how we have experienced suicide. While looking at this open data, it resonated to look at other “deaths of despair” and how it effects our county.

The Data

A little caution about this data. This is official data reported to the New York State Department of Health Bureau Vital statics. It is often limited by the accuracy of those who report deaths to both coroners, the local health department, and deaths that my take place in another state/jurisdiction. Here is what is publicly available data about Suicide Deaths in our county.  Although they are taking steps to improve data accuracy and collection, this is just an overview of what we are experiencing here in Rensselaer County…

Suicide Data:


Year Suicide Deaths in Ren. Co Per 100,00 Residents in Ren. Co Suicide Deaths Statewide Statewide per 100,000
2007 14 9.0 1,368 7.1
2008 10 6.4 1,391 7.1
2009 19 10.3 1,400 7.2
2010 12 7.5 1,513 7.8
2011 18 11.3 1,625 7.3
2012 21 13.1 1,637 8.5
2013 10 6.3 1,642 8.3
2014 21 14.1 1,657 8.3
2015 19* 1,639*


One can see the first problem I alluded to earlier. The last complete data set publicly available is from 2015. One can project the overall statewide trend is increasing with a slight decrease in 2015.  Telegraphing trends from the Rensselaer County Data is challenging but our suicide deaths and the rate per 100,000 people is not decreasing. This continues to be challenge for our task force.  Looking at statewide data one can see this a challenge for the entire state.


What Do We Do?

At first glance the data on suicides in our county reveal no pattern. Again we are limited by timely and accurate data.  I am excited to be representing our task force at the 3rd Annual Suicide Prevention Center of New York Conference to get an update and the state of data collection. Although it comes with it’s challenges the intentional examination of improved data collection can better inform our practices. The trend is sadly in the upward direction in the State and locally. We are committed to working locally to try to make a difference. I hope that you will consider joining our Task Force….


Please follow us on Facebook and look for regular meetings and other local events.

You can also Join our Slack Channel.




Recognizing The Unique Needs of Our Rural Areas

An article in yesterday’s U.S News And World Report is getting attention in the suicide prevention community. It also has me reflecting on the need to understand the unique needs for the rural part of our county.  The article was entitled “Study: Farmers Don’t Have Enough Mental Health Services” it goes on to describe the findings of the study highlighting the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Last spring, the same research lab identified that farmers are one of the highest risk occupations for suicide.

Also in her research Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas highlights some of the risk factors for farmers:

  • Access to and familiarity with lethal means. Studies indicate that farmers trying to die by suicide are most likely to use means to which they have easy access (Behere & Bhise, 2009). In India, for example, poisoning by pesticide consumption is the most common method. In England and Wales, on the other hand, firearms are more accessible, and thus they are the most-frequently used method for death by suicide.
  • Exposure to death. Not only do they tend to have easy access to firearms, but also experience in using them (e.g. killing sick animals (Malmberg et al., 1997; Malmberg et al., 1999).
  • High Stress Outside of their Control. Farmers experience high occupational stress and related problems, including concern over new laws, anxiety about changing farming methods, long working hours, unpredictability of weather, and financial problems resulting from market fluctuations (Malmberg et al., 1997; Malmberg, Simkin, & Hawton, 1999).
  • Family tensions. Since farming is often a family business, family problems are intricately tied to farmers’ livelihood (Malmberg et al., 1997; Malmberg et al., 1999). When conflicts arise in their families, farmers may lose their livelihood in addition to closeness with family members (Malmberg et al., 1997). Farming is not simply an occupation, but a way of life. Familial conflict as well as isolation due to the impact of modern technology on the farming industry may lead to a feeling of thwarted belongingness among farmers (Joiner et al., 2009).
  • Isolation. Farmers are becoming more isolated due to mechanization of farming (Malmberg et al., 1997).
  • Stoicism. Farmers tend to feel as if they need to stay positive when dealing with hardship. Expressing negative thoughts and feelings in farming culture is discouraged, which leads to stigma around mental health problems (Judd et al., 2006).


Not to assume that all occupants of rural Rensselaer County are farmers, but these risk factors may also be present.  I began to reflect on what we have done as a task force to engage the rural area of our county…

This was a headline from The Bennington Banner in preparation for our listening session that was held on February 12, 2015. Held almost three years ago to the day, this was last time we intentionally reached out to the rural part of our county.  Every once and while in the task force meetings we mention how we need to understand the needs of this part of our county better. We would like to perhaps crowd source how we can do this better.

We would love to hear from you.  If you are a resident of a rural part of the county, do the above risk factors resonate with you?  Are there protective factors or strengths that perhaps can be added?  Do we need to host another forum? What information would you like to hear from the task force and is there anything else we need to know from you? Thanks for taking the time to read the post and also feel free to stay tuned to our Facebook page for how you can help.


Stories of Survivors Matter But So Do The Numbers

Next Saturday, November 18, 2017, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.  This a day for those to gather and remember loved ones we have lost to suicide. It was once thought the for every death by suicide, six people were effected. Renowned suicidiologist Ed Schneiderman famously made this estimate.  Since then data and science has helped up come to greater understanding of how many people are effected by a suicide.

This past week was the International Suicide Research Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada. Part of the summit was dedicated to the impact of suicide on communities.  Dr. Juile Cerel presented research that expands on a growing body of evidence the impact of suicide has. That those who felt the strongest impact to the loss, this  was more likely to have depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, prolonged grief, and suicide ideation.

Dr. Cerel further expanded on this research with another article recently published.  That out of 1,500 respondents, 50 percent of them have been exposed to a suicide loss.  With 34 percent of these individuals reporting they were significantly bereaved by the loss.  In addition to this, a review of 18 studies about the impact of suicide loss estimated that 4 percent of the population will be impacted by a suicide within a calendar year and that 22 percent of the population was effected by a suicide loss in their lifetime.

On International Suicide Survivor Loss Day, we will here stories of suicide loss from others and those in our communities. We will be able to sit with others, listen, and perhaps share our own stories. These stories will hopefully bring a feeling of support and perhaps healing.  These days are helpful reminders that you are not alone. It’s also important to note that science and data is also beginning to tell the story too.

Thank you locally to the Capital Region Chapter of the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention and the National Chapter for it’s tireless efforts to organize these days every year.

So please join us at our local event at The Krause Center at Samaritan Hospital for a day of healing and support. There are also 7 other locations in the Capital Region and also many others nation and world wide (search for them here).  You may also view an event online and find a list of times here. 


Sean Erreger (Co-Chair of The Task Force)

Going Beyond The Swag

About a year and half ago we used our funds to get some swag. When I posted it on the Facebook page it was and still is one of the most viewed posts on our  page. Since then we have been meeting and I have been thinking what next? What can we do on social media to do go beyond the swag…



Several months ago we needed to find another website host. So I am taking the opportunity to experiment and launch a new look website and blog.  Currently the new website will be RCSuicidePreventionBlog.Wordpress.Com … YES it’s it’s long but we will shorten it down soon. I will try to write a new post the week prior to our weekly coalition meeting so stay tuned. Follow us on Facebook and also you can follow the blog via email.

We continue to need people to help us build this task force.  Similar to “going beyond the swag” we continue to strive to go beyond our previous successes; to build.  We continue to think about what training we can provide and what partnerships we can build to reduce suicide risk in our community and help those heal via our postvention efforts to Bring Hope, Healing, and Support To Our Community.

So stay tuned, join us for a meeting, or contact us to see how you can get involved.

Sean Erreger, LCSW (Co-Chair of The Rensselaer County Suicide Prevention Task Force)