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Washington County Suicide Rate Twice National Average

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Family members comfort each other after Christopher Pewe's suicide. Family members comfort each other after Christopher Pewe's suicide.
Christopher Pewe took his own life. Christopher Pewe took his own life.
Washington County has a suicide rate double the national average. Washington County has a suicide rate double the national average.

Washington County is trying to reverse course on a disturbing trend. The suicide rate there is double the national average.

Counselors and surviving family members say they have a plan to change it, but they need help from the community.

From fishing to football, Christopher Pewe seemed like anyone else, only he faced a personal crisis that led to him killing himself.

"When it comes right down to it I, would say the essence of that answer is he lost hope and he was weary," said Stella Shoff, Christopher's mother.

Suicide has become a growing problem in Washington County. The Suicide Prevention Coalition says it's the number one cause of death in young adults in the county. A large majority of the victims are male, and 25 to 34 year olds are most at risk.

"It is shocking to many who have heard that's the case," said Andria McCollough, Washington County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Andria McCollough says the coalition has been reaching out to local businesses and organizations in an effort to show them what to look for and how they can help.

"It's one of things we feel like if we can just get people to talk about it, we can make an impact," she said.

Jonathan Pewe is Christopher's brother. He says he's had a very tough time since Christopher's suicide, falling into alcohol and drug addiction, but he's clean now and working hard to fight the stigma of suicide.

Jonathan is the first to say that counselors and professionals play an important role in preventing suicide, but he says it's just as important, maybe even more so, that neighbors, friends, and family step in if they see warning signs.

"It could just be a silly couple of moments out of your day that you misinterpreted or you could save somebody's life," he said.

Jonathan wants those who are thinking about suicide to a take a moment and think of your family and friends.

"There's always something to live for, there's always somebody you can help, there's always somebody," said Jonathan Pewe, whose brother committed suicide. "Even if you feel like you're hurting, just you being alive - it means the world to somebody."

The Washington County Suicide Prevention Coalition has a survivors group that meets the first Thursday of every month at the Hopestone Cancer Support Center in Bartlesville.

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