Chesterton Tribune


Coroner: Suicides spike in Porter County in 2012

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Suicides in Porter County were at an 18-year high in 2012.

Traffic fatalities, on the other hand, were at a 15-year low, while the number of suspected or confirmed heroin-related deaths decreased dramatically from 2011.

Those are the trends revealed by Coroner Chuck Harris’ recently released annual report.

Begin with suicides: there were 39 of them last year, compared to 19 in 2011, an 89 percent increase. The next highest number of suicides over the last 18 years: 35 in 2009. The average number of suicides in each of the last 18 years: 21.

“Twenty percent of the Porter County Coroner’s Office cases involved suicide, which is an astonishing figure,” Harris said. “From my office’s experience, these deaths usually are directly related to relationship conflicts and economic desperation.”

“National averages show that 90 percent of people who die of suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death,” Harris added. “With these statistics I think it goes to show why treatment centers like Porter-Starke are so greatly needed in our community. There is no telling how many lives have been saved and not ended up becoming one of my investigations.”


•In 2012 nine people died in motor vehicle accidents, compared to 12 in 2011, a decrease of 25 percent. Those nine fatalities, however, were the lowest of any year since 1997, when only eight MVA fatalities were recorded. The highest number of MVA fatalities over the last 15 years: 36 in 2004. The average number of MVA fatalities in each of the last 15 years: 24.

•No pedestrians died in MVAs in 2012, compared to two in 2011 and three in 2010. The highest number of MVA pedestrian deaths over the last 15 years: six, in 2007 and again in 2000. The average number of MVA pedestrian deaths in each of the last 15 years: three.

•Four people drowned in 2012, compared to four in 2011 and one in 2009. The highest number of drownings over the last 15 years: six in 2008. The average number of drownings in each of the last 15 years: three.


There were five homicides in Porter County last year, compared to five in 2011; none in 2010; and four in 2009. The highest number of homicides over the last 15 years: six in 2001. The average number of homicides in each of the last 15 years: three.

Accidental Overdoses

In 2012 26 people died of accidental drug overdoses in Porter County. Of the 26 victims, 19 were men and seven women. Their average age: 36.

Of the 26 overdoses, nine are suspected or confirmed to have been heroin-related, compared to 19 in 2011, a decrease of 47 percent. There were 18 heroin-related fatalities in 2010. The average age of nine victims in 2012: 30.

“I believe there is a strong correlation between drug usage and the employment rate,” Harris said. “Economic desolation and desperation is one aspect but I believe that in many areas perhaps a bigger problem is that drug use has become a large part of the culture. Back when we were children there was a negative stigma attached to drug use. That is not necessarily the case anymore. Also, wholesale prices for heroin have declined from $150,000/kilogram in 2008 to $55,000/kilogram in 2011, making it a ‘cheaper high’ for drug users.”

As Harris noted, though, prescription medications are more abused than heroin is. “Eighty percent of worldwide prescription painkillers are consumed by America yet we are 4.6 percent of the world’s population,” he said. “We can’t tolerate that. I really hope people realize that we have one drug-related death a week in Porter County.”

“What causes someone to overdose?” Harris added. “Is it one pill? No, it’s not one pill. It is the first time someone takes a pill? Normally, it’s not. The reason people are overdosing is because they don’t ever get to the high they got to the first time. There are so many people out there who actually overdose and are so close to death but don’t realize it.”



Posted 3/15/2013