There were 14 calls to the Harford County Sheriff's Office between Jan. 18 and Jan. 22 of people reporting that someone was either attempting suicide or contemplating it.

Although the calls for service seem to show a startling number of suicide-related incidents, including one for a student of elementary school age, Lt. Marc Junkerman said in late January it was too early to tell if there is a significant trend.

Since then, however, not a week has gone by without multiple calls to police and emergency responders for attempted and, sometimes, successful suicides around the county. There were several such calls last week, according to police radio transmissions.

The most recent calls for service logs from the Harford County Sheriff's Office, from March 29 through April 1, had six suicide-related issues. A call came in Monday morning for a suicide attempt at the Harford County Detention Center, as well.

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One of this year's calls involved the suicide of a former high school and college basketball star, Monroe C. "Monnie" Brown, who was found dead in his Havre de Grace home on March 9. Mr. Brown had once served time in prison on a drug dealing conviction and had recently been charged with drug offenses following a traffic stop.

A month earlier, Maryland State Police sent a Medevac to deal with a suicide attempt at the park and ride lot near the I-95/Route 155 interchange in Havre de Grace. Another Harford jail inmate hung himself earlier this year.

Sheriff Jesse Bane has said one of his most difficult roles is providing proper mental health services to the jail's inmate population – many of whom are not dangerous lawbreakers who need to be locked up in a penal setting.

Daily crises

It takes two years to see any increase in calls but the sheriff's office typically has approximately 750 calls per year for people in crisis – some potential suicides, Junkerman said in the earlier interview.

"The fact that people are in crisis and calling law enforcement happens on a daily basis," he added.

In many of the calls, it is just a case of someone needing help, Junkerman said, and in response to the need, the sheriff's office developed the crisis intervention team, or CIT, division. Officers who make up the team are specially trained to deal with people in crisis.

The police academy has also incorporated mental health training into the program as part of a new approach to give officers general knowledge on gauging crisis situations. The crisis team is used as a resource, Junkerman said, to help develop the best course of action for those types of calls.

Prior to the new program, police only had two options for those type of calls: take someone to the hospital or to the Harford County Detention Center. Now they have a third option, diversion, which allows officers to develop a safety plan for people in crisis, Junkerman said.

"We're coming up with alternative solutions to keep that consumer in society," he added.

Despite the new diversion technique, Junkerman emphasized that safety comes first and the officers will still take someone in if they have become a threat to themselves or others. The best approach to these type of situations, however, is prevention.

Missing signs

In many cases, after a person has reached the point of contemplating suicide, Junkerman said loved ones are "kicking themselves" for missing all the signs. To try and prevent that from happening, he suggested being in touch with loved ones and talking to them.

This spring, the Behavioral Health Unit is expected to open at the Harford County Detention Center to further help the sheriff's office administer mental health to people there.

Harford County also has an Office of Mental Health as a resource, which posted a youth crisis hotline on the main page, 1-800-422-0009. A suicide hotline was used in an incident on Jan. 30, when deputies were able to effectively handle the person in need.

Earlier this year, deputies responded to Harford Square Drive after a suicide hotline notified them that someone called to report he wanted to hang himself and had a knife, according to a police report. Deputies were able to talk to the man, who was later taken to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.