‘A very large jump:’ Suicide rate at an all-time high in Milwaukee County in 2017, with 156 deaths

Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office

MILWAUKEE COUNTY -- The suicide rate in Milwaukee County hit an all-time high in 2017, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.

"It caught my eye pretty much last summer. 156 suicides in 2017. We usually average about 100-per-year, and that's pretty consistent. Last year we saw a very large jump," said Milwaukee County Medical Examiner Karen Domagalski.

Of the 156 suicides, almost 75 percent were men. When the numbers are dissected even more, the data shows the majority of suicides involved people between the ages of 45 and 75. The youngest victim was 12. The oldest was 89.

"It's just an awful experience for everyone involved in it," Domagalski said.

Officials said they're not why this spike occurred, but said they're seeing the numbers from 2018 on the decline compared to 2017.

"It is going down," said Domagalski.


The overall trend though, is high.

"It is up from prior years. We've already had 102 certified deaths this year from suicide," said Domagalski.

Karen Domagalski

When faced with suicide, staff at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office often get asked why. Unfortunately, they don't have many answers.

"Our job is to just certify manner and cause of death," said Domagalski.

They encouraged those in need to get help and save their own lives.

  • If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the crisis line at 414-257-7222. (The national suicide hotline is answered here, locally.)
    • CRISIS TEXT: “HOME” to 741-741 (NATIONAL)
  • If a child or adolescent is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 414-257-7621.
  • The National Suicide Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • If someone is in imminent danger, call 911.
  • Most importantly, when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to them. Let them know you are worried and want to help.
  • What should someone do/say if they believe someone is suicidal?
    • Take them seriously.

○        Everyone can:  (Source: www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/)

  • Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide.
  • Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
  • Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
  • Connect them with ongoing support like the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Crisis Line.
  • Follow up to see how they’re doing.
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