It has always been perplexing to me to realize the suicide rate in Volusia County is among the highest in Florida.
Granted environmental beauty does not preclude us from the stress and problems of everyday life, but I would have thought living here in paradise would leave us perhaps a bit less likely to choose the ultimate solution.
In 2016, our suicide rate reached 22.6 per 100,000 residents. Last year it did drop some to 18.3 per, but when you consider the state average is 15.4 per 100,000, you can see we are in trouble. Flagler County is somewhat better with an average of 14.2. Why is that? What changes just a few miles up the road? Perplexing.
Oh sure, I know we have a significant problem with street drugs and prescription opioids, but no more than other areas with the same problems.
Studies show dealing with depression and stress rank high as causes. Problems with love and money are high up on that same list as is post-traumatic stress. They tell us that young people who are members of the LGBTQ community are four times as likely to end it all. I know we have our fair share of all of the above, but why are we perennially at the forefront of suicide?
Recently a rash of suicides in the entertainment world left us all shocked. No one expected Robin Williams, the world’s funniest comedian, to off himself. We were told it was probably due to illness, but no one will ever know for sure.
Not long ago l was attempting to scribble something this paper might print to entertain you when the old video “Don’t Worry Be Happy” appeared on the tube. I put the pen down to watch the silly Robin cavorting across the screen in a variety of costumes. He seemed to be having fun making weird faces and doing strange dances. Always the clown, at least on the outside.
The young designer Kate Spade killed herself and so has celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. That last one really bothered me. For years I had watched Tony as he traveled the world. Part of his charm was a kind of dark side he did not try to hide, but I never considered he would come to a place where he could not face another day.
For God’s sake give it a little time. Tomorrow may seem totally different. When you get older (as I am now), you realize each day is precious. Sure, no one gets through life without problems, but you can’t give up.
We all deal with those problems in different ways. For me, Mother Nature cleans my soul. As long as I can get out in Florida’s beautiful environment, I will be OK. I know that won’t work for everyone, but if you are down, get out and take a walk. Birds singing and fresh air just might change things.
It is well-documented the holiday season causes a spike in the suicide rate each year. It is difficult to imagine how the favorite time of year for the majority of us is unbearable for others. It seems Christmas is a tough time to be alone. You don’t have to be. If you know someone in trouble please be a friend.
One of my favorite things to do at this time of year is go to Volusia Mall and sit with a cup of coffee to watch the hectic shoppers as they nearly trample each other in order to fill their Christmas lists. Of course, I am fortunate to have my grown children nearby and they have blessed me with three beautiful grandchildren that are a joy.
If you are not so lucky, just know there are children around who would love to have you in their life. This is the perfect time to get out of your rut and help someone else. (That may work both ways.) God bless and remember you are living in paradise.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, “The World’s Greatest Beach” and “I Swear the Snook Drowned.” Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.