Suicides in Berks: 'The numbers are extremely high'

'We want people to know they can talk to us'

READING, Pa. - The suicide deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are sending shockwaves across the country as suicide rates have increased more than 25 percent since 1999, according to experts.

Berks County isn't exempt. So far this year, 27 people have taken their lives. While experts say additional resources help, it's still a problem.

Suicide is personal, but it has impacts that stretch far and wide, with the countless family members and friends left behind.

"In terms of Berks County, the numbers are extremely high," said Dr. Edward Michalik with the Berks County Suicide Prevention Task Force.

Formed in 2016, the group has made multiple efforts to slow suicide rates, but the work never ends.

"We want people to know they can talk to us and we can help them find healthy alternatives," he said.

In 2016, 72 suicides were reported in Berks County. There was a slight drop in 2017, with 69. Between January and May of 2018, there have been 27 suicides involving both adults and children.

"For the younger population, they don't see beyond the very immediate concern. They don't see themselves two years, 10 years down the road," said Amy Groh, who also works on the Suicide Prevention Task Force.

The task force advertises with posters, billboards and even commercials. Crisis teams can deploy. Crisis hotlines and even crisis texting options are available.

"I think it's less intimidating so that people want to be honest," Groh said of the texting option.

She said reasons people commit suicide are limitless, and instead of doubting the seriousness of what pushes someone to suicide, people should instead open their hearts.

"A key to people not being suicidal is connection," she said.

Experts said some people also don't get help because they feel they can afford it. The Berks County Suicide Prevention Task Force also has resources available to people who may not be able to afford extended counseling.

If you are ever feeling depressed, help is just a text or phone call away. You can anonymously text 'ruOK' to 484-816-7865. Someone will be on the other end.

Or, visit

You can also reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 if you are concerned about your mental health or someone else's.

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