The topic of suicide has had a huge impact in Sevier County.
Those on the front lines of dealing with suicide are law enforcement officers.
The latest was a 17-year-old female from Harrisville, who ran in front of a semi near Elsinore Aug. 3.
It was the second time this summer a person had killed himself or herself in Sevier County in the same manner.
“We’ve had 14 suicides since May of last year,” Sevier County Sheriff Nate Curtis said. He said his office has dealt with nine cases so far in 2019.
In the past year, the sheriff’s office has dealt with 133 cases involving threats or attempts of suicide, Curtis said.
“Those are just the ones that have been reported,” Curtis said. “There has to be some other resources out there to let them know that they are not alone.”
Curtis said he is glad there are some who give indications that they need help. The most difficult cases are the ones where the victims don’t give any indications of suicidal intent before taking their lives.
“Where is the common denominator? There isn’t one. There is not one thing we can point our finger at,” Curtis said. “If there were one thing that we could do to stop these, we’d be doing it.”
However, the problem is that every case is different, with root causes varying from person to person.
In his own personal life, Curtis said he was once making plans to go on a Jeep trip with a friend, but the friend killed himself without giving anyone clues that he was to that point.
“He never gave any of us a chance,” Curtis said.
Curtis said there is a new program being used by the U.S. Military that collects data about a person. Certain indicators, such as interactions with law enforcement, domestic episodes and other factors are tracked and those that indicate a possible problem are flagged.
“They had some success in the military and have reduced suicides up to 52 percent,” Curtis said. “If you could cut some of what we have in half, that would be great.”
Curtis also said there can be a danger in romanticizing the idea of suicide.
“Sometimes we put them on a pedestal,” Curtis said. “Say you have a kid who is depressed because he can’t get the attention he craves. Now here’s a way to get attention. We don’t want that.”
As for fixing the problem, Curtis said it’s going to take more than just one agency.
“Lots of people say it’s law enforcement, or the government or the school district that needs to fix it,” Curtis said. “It’s everyone’s problem. You have to start at home, you have to start with friends.”