WISCONSIN (NBC 26) -- A new study, partially conducted by the Department of Health Services, found that from 2000 to 2017 there was a 40 percent increase in the number of suicides in Wisconsin. Today some local doctors are concerned the trend could get worse with an ongoing pandemic.
We're six months into the pandemic and doctors are starting to notice an alarming trend related to the mental health of many of their patients.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in people coming in wanting to talk about mental health, depression, and anxiety," says Doctor Mike Aleksandrowicz, a family medicine physician with Aurora Health.
A concern to many doctors is that people dealing with mental health problems, won't see a doctor, and they may harm themselves or take their own lives.
"It is definitely increasing. It's now one of the top 10 reasons that an American dies," says Dr. Aleksandrowicz.
Dr. Aleksandrowicz says while the trend of suicide across the state has been increasing since 2000, he's concerned many are experiencing depression due to the pandemic right now.
"I've had people coming in saying I've never wanted to talk about this, but based on being furloughed at home or not being able to do everything I normally want to do. I am noticing I'm a little more sad and I'd like to talk about it."
Stress and isolation brought on by the pandemic are believed to be contributing factors to poor mental health for many, but Dr. Aleksandrowicz says opioid addiction is also pushing suicide rates upward.
"We know in the patients that are being treated for addiction that about 40 percent have attempted suicide."
The alarming trend isn't a problem that can't be fixed though. Dr. Aleksandrowicz says friends and family who recognize their loved ones are depressed can make a difference by asking if the person is considering suicide.
"We're not planting a seed. We're not pushing them over the edge. What we do find is broaching that topic, if you're concerned, can lead them down the path to get the help that they need and deserve."
The CDC has a national hot-line that is always available for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression. The contact number is 1-800-273-TALK and it is available at no cost. There is also a free texting option available for people experiencing depression, just text "hopeline" to the number 741-741.