Suicide in Butler County: How bad is it, and what are officials doing about it?

One Saturday last winter a 66-year-old woman in northeastern Butler County put a gun to her head and killed herself.

One other woman and 13 men ended their lives the same way in the county in 2020.

The 15 gunshot wounds, all to the head, were the leading cause of self-inflicted death last year, some 40.5 percent of the county’s 37 suicide deaths. Hangings accounted for another 13, followed by 3 intentional drug overdoses and 2 suicides by train.

The Butler County Suicide Prevention Coalition plans to create pamphlets that can be distributed at firearm stores with advice about suicidal behaviors. Such pamphlets used elsewhere in Ohio can help curb gun access to those who may be considering killing themselves.

Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said he not only approves of such efforts, he’s helped create them in other parts of the state.

Kristina Latta-Landefeld of Envision Partnerships said Butler County people got the idea from Ohio legislation introduced during the last general assembly that would have required gun shops to provide such information. Envision Partnerships is an organization that works to curb drug and alcohol abuse and promote healthy living.

Rieck said he worked on such materials with Franklin County LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) “that provide some information on suicide in what I would call a gun-friendly manner, because a lot of the suicide stuff is associated with folks who want to pass anti-gun legislation and things like that.”

“The thought was, ‘Let’s do it in a way that the people who need to get the message are not going to be turned off by it,” he said.

“The message is kind of like, ‘Do you have your buddy’s back? It’s meant to tell people if a friend or family member is going through a rough time, you have to talk to them. It encourages them to voluntarily put their guns in a different location.”

Someone might offer to keep a neighbor’s guns for a few weeks when that neighbor was going through a rough period, he said: “That way, it prevents them from having immediate access.”

Other local suicide information

Butler County’s 37 suicides in 2020 were lowest since 2016, when there were 33. In 2019, there were 47, with 41 in 2018 and 44 in 2017.

“It’s an interesting fact that there were fewer suicides in 2020 than in 2019 here in Butler County,” said Kristen Smith of the suicide coalition. “And that’s a trend across the state. I’ve had conversations across the state with other coalition chairs, and nobody has studied this yet to be able to offer any explanation.”

“So I wouldn’t even want to guess as to an explanation of all of this yet, but the numbers don’t lie,” she said. “I’m sure people will be studying it, and we’ll also see how 2021 rolls out, too.”

Smith teaches QPR classes, which teach people how to get help for people who may be considering suicides. In those classes, she asks people to guess the season when most people commit suicides. Most guess winter because of the dark season which can depress people, and post-holiday grief. But “studies show that’s actually spring,” she said. “It has more to do with you almost hold on, thinking things will get better in the spring, and if they don’t....”

Some other county suicide facts:

  • Of the females who killed themselves, the youngest was 17. Two were in their 20s; two were in their 40s; three in their 60s; and one was 89.
  • Of the males, the youngest was 19. Four were in their 20s; four were in their 30s; seven in their 40s; five in their 50s; five in their 60s; one in his 70s; and the oldest was 82.
  • The percentage of people killing themselves using guns in the county actually has dropped in the county, based on coroner’s office for the six years of 2015 through 2020. During that period, 51.4 percent used guns, compared to 40.5 percent in 2020.
  • Mondays are by far the worst for suicides. In that six-year period, 44 killed themselves then, compared with the next highest days, Sundays (32); and Wednedays (31).

Ways to prevent suicide

Here are some ways to prevent suicide, and other ways local officials plan to battle it:

  • People considering suicide, or wanting help fighting any type of drug or alcohol addiction, can call the Butler County Crisis and Heroin Hope Line at 844-427-4747.
  • If you suspect someone is depressed, don’t be afraid to ask how they are feeling, and whether they’re contemplating suicide. You will not be putting the seed of thought in their minds, experts say.
  • Also, prevention advocates recommend everybody learns QPR, which is like CPR, but for suicide. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer. People learn to Question others about whether they have suicidal thoughts, Persuade them to get professional help, and Refer them to such help. Much like CPR, there are life-saving techniques to that can be learned in 90 minutes. training to their workplace, school, church or civic group by calling Kristen Smith at 513-407-2028 or

About the Author