With 2017 coming to a close, 27 people have been homicide victims in Macon-Bibb County.
As we reported last month, that's higher than the annual average for the past decade of 23 homicides, but there's something else that takes the lives of just as many people each year.
We learned that over the last ten years, for almost every homicide in our community, there was a suicide, too -- an average of about 22 suicides per year, and the impact continues.
How do family members cope when a loved one chooses to end his or her own life? The family and friends of 14-year old Hailie Crepeau are still trying to figure that out.
"On the last day of school, when I went home, I just felt this weird feeling, it was uneasy... I just felt like, 'Am I going to see her again?" says Hailie's friend, Angelo Berks.
In July, Hailie took her own life.
"It's been very hard for me to cope. Time just doesn't help me," says Berks.
Her stepmother, Michelle Crepeau, says Hailie was bullied at school and abused by another family member.
"It's been a slow, living nightmare," says Michelle. "Here and there, she would drop hints."
Michelle says Hailie was in therapy, but she never imagined it would come to this.
"I understand that she did it to end her pain, but the pain she left is extreme," says Michelle.
Unfortunately, Hailie's 'suicide story' is just one of 24 written in Macon-Bibb this year.
"That's 24 families who have no idea how to move on," says Michelle.
But there's also another group of families grieving.
"It's disturbing... it's disturbing. You have the stats. What's the average? The homicides and the suicides are close in numbers," says Macon-Bibb Chief Coroner, Leon Jones.
According to the Bibb County Coroner's Office, in the last decade, there was an average of 23 homicides a year in Macon-Bibb, and 22 suicides a year.
This year, both categories are already up.
According to a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control, there's an average of 12.6 suicides a year for every 100,000 people. That means Macon-Bibb's suicide rate is well above the national average.
"It's a taboo topic. It's one that doesn't garner national headlines unless there is something sensationalized about it," says Jessica Hatcher, an Associate Vice President of Behavioral Health at Coliseum Medical Center.
Hatcher says suicide is Georgia's 11th leading cause of death, and it's a "very" significant issue among young adults like 14-year old Hailie, whose family has a message.
"I don't want to see this happen to anyone else. There's help," says Michelle.
"Who is your support system, is it your peer group? Is it your church? Is it your family," asks Hatcher.
And while the Crepeau family tries to pick up the pieces from their loss, they want to prevent others from having to do the same.
"I know she's gone, but I can't accept it," says Michelle.
- If you are a family member or friend of a suicide victim struggling with grief, Hailie's family has created a Facebook page for support.
- Coliseum Medical Center also offers the Helping Hands Support Group, which offers emotional support for those who have lost a loved one. For more information you can call (478) 646-1401.
- If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts you can also call the national suicide prevention life line at ( 1-800-273-8255).
- River Edge Behavioral Health Center in Macon also offers a variety of mental heath services
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