One suicide occurs every 16.6 minutes in the United States, according to Ashley Garrett, director of planning and evaluation for the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County.

One suicide occurs every 16.6 minutes in the United States, according to Ashley Garrett, director of planning and evaluation for the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County.

She provided suicide statistics to those gathered at the Union County Government Services Building on Nov. 17 to talk about establishing a suicide prevention task force.

It's reported that on an annual basis, about 1-million people commit suicide worldwide, Garrett said. For every completed suicide, information available through Consolidated Care Inc. indicates there are another six attempts made.

The No. 1 risk factor is depression, according to Garrett.

Men complete suicide three times more often than women, but women attempt suicide four times more often, she said.

"Don't be afraid to say that 'S' word," said Mary Giannola, a member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition in Logan and Champaign counties and the mother of a survivor.

Her son, Gus Giannola, attempted suicide when he was 18 years old.

Holding her finger under her chin, she demonstrated how her son used a gun in the attempt.

"Thirty-six surgeries later," Giannola said, "he is doing fine."

Once he was through the critical stage, she asked her son, "What were you thinking?"

"He said 'I wasn't thinking,' " recalled Giannola.

Mike Witzky, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County, said recent local events spurred him into thinking about putting together a suicide prevention task force.

Union County Coroner David Applegate called and asked Witzky if he was aware of two suicides and one attempt by three local men during a span of three days in October.

"One of the particularly important groups we are going to be looking at is men between the ages of 35 and 55," said Witzky, who has served as a counselor specializing in the area of suicide and depression for 35 years. "Men feel like it is our responsibility to make sure the household is taken care of and their needs are met financially and carry that burden."

As the president of the Ohio State Coroners Association, Applegate said he has the advantage of looking at statewide trends. He said officials are seeing overdoses and suicides in those 16 to 25, white males of middle age and elderly couples.

When he contacted Witzky, Applegate wanted to know how they could change those patterns.

Pulling a prevention task force together by the end of the year is an ambitious task, according to Witzky. But he said it is important to get the message out to the public before the holiday season, a time when some feel stressed and depressed.

"Sometimes it feels like there is no way out," he said, "but there is hope."

Witzky said those entities involved with suicide prevention will work on a dual track to reach both adolescents and adults.

The plan is to increase awareness, provide intervention and develop methodology to enhance surveillance systems and promote research.

Giannola, who offered her services, said training does help.

She said suicide has become the "last taboo."

"We can talk about AIDS, sex, incest and other topics that used to be unapproachable," she said, "but we are still afraid of the 'S' word."

Ninety-four suicide attempts have been made in the Marysville, Plain City and Richwood communities as well as Union County this year, based on information from police and sheriff's office reports, Garrett said. She said she does not know if the information is tracked the same way by each department.

The suicide of a popular teenager last spring also led Witzky to Marysville schools.

He said they have already begun training in the schools.

Based on a school screening conducted in Logan County, Giannola said, teachers with 30 students in their class can expect at least six to have experienced clinically significant depression by adulthood, causing problems at home, with peers and in the classroom or on the job.