Sarah Henrickson outside with police (copy)

Sarah Henrickson, a social worker with Journey Mental Health Center and a member of the Madison Police Department mental health unit, talks with Madison police officers during a joint patrol shift in 2018.

Suicides are up in Dane County this year compared to last year, especially among youth and young adults, with mental health providers seeing a link to COVID-19 and a related uptick in treatment for depression.

The county had 57 suicides this year as of last week, more than the total of 54 for all of last year, according to preliminary data collected by Journey Mental Health Center, said Hannah Flanagan, director of emergency services at Journey.

Among people age 24 and younger, 15 suicides were reported as of mid-September, up from eight for all of last year. Suicides are also up for ages 25 to 38, according to this year’s unofficial data, Flanagan said.

“When people are lonely, it’s really hard to cope,” she said. “The specificity about COVID social distancing and isolation that we’ve come across as contributing factors to the suicide are really new to us this year.”

Calls to Journey’s crisis line are up 15% or more since the pandemic started, with more calls coming from people experiencing situational stress and not severe, persistent mental illness, Flanagan said.

At UnityPoint Health-Meriter’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital, demand for treatment increased during the summer, with admissions in July about 25% higher than normal, said Dr. Katie Schmitt, medical director.

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