Coroner says suicide rate appears to be on decline

By Greg Oliver
Courtesy The Journal

PICKENS — Pickens County Coroner Kandy Kelley said last week it appears there will be a decrease in the county’s suicide rate this year.

“We only have 15, and we usually have 30 to 35,” Kelley told municipal, county and state leaders and school board representatives gathered for a Pickens United meeting at Mile Creek Park.

Kelley said the normal 30 to 35 suicide cases the county experiences each year puts Pickens County at No. 1 per capita in South Carolina.

“So, hopefully, we will be taken off that (list),” she said.

Kelley had other statistics to report, pointing out that there have been 30 drug overdose deaths this year.

“We’re going to be the same (in that area), as we usually have between 30 to 40,” Kelley said.

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kelley said there have been six home deaths.

“Most of them were in hospitals and hospice deaths and nursing homes,” she said. “I can’t say that COVID has affected my world, other than I use a lot more (personal protective equipment) now.”

Overall, Kelley said her office has responded to more incidents this year — 1,965 so far, compared to 1,400 last year.

“We’ve been really, really busy this year,” Kelley said. “Of course, when the population goes up, (the number of incidents) goes up.”

Pickens County Council chairman Roy Costner said one thing he is thankful for is that while the COVID-19 rate has spiked upward, the county’s unemployment rate remains at 3 to 4 percent.

“It is well below the state and national average, so we’ve been very fortunate in that sense,” Costner said.

State Rep. Neal Collins of Easley said he uses a COVID-19 event risk assessment planning tool created by Georgia Tech students that is updated daily county-by-county throughout the nation. That, he said, led him to select Mile Creek Park as the meeting place for Pickens United, “since it is outdoors, where risk of COVID-19 is lessened.”