Eric Heinemann

Eric Heinemann’s father killed himself in early 2009. “No one would ever have thought he would take this type of action,” Heinemann said. Like many who have had someone close commit suicide, Eric and the rest of the Heinemann family still are groping for answers. (Stacey Wescott, Chicago Tribune)

Will Heinemann seemed happy in October of 2008, laughing with friends and family at his son's wedding. Six months later he fatally shot himself.

The owner of a Barrington masonry company and a 59-year-old married father of three, Heinemann seemed to have everything to live for. His suicide, like most, left survivors groping for answers.

"The overall economy had really started to diminish ... the overall housing decline just sort of basically put him out of work," recalled his son, Eric Heinemann, 35, of Crystal Lake, who spoke to his father the day before the suicide.

"He was down, but it was one of those things that nobody really thinks that someone could do to themselves," Heinemann said. "Especially this guy, he was pretty much ... our hero. No one would ever have thought he would take this type of action. It was a huge shock for all of us."

Experts say suicide rates are rising locally and across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that every 13.7 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide. Nearly 1 million people attempt suicide every year.

Crisis centers are scrambling to offer help in preventing the number from rising further, but solutions remain elusive. Officials say there's no single problem to pinpoint.

"The economy, possibly," is a factor, said McHenry County Deputy Coroner Robert Locke. "But if you look at the story of the deaths, (there is) alcohol abuse, depression, drug abuse, anxiety, bipolar, (post traumatic stress disorder), relationship problems, mood swings, marital problems. … One person (was) bullied by a boss, schizophrenia ..."

Between 2000 and 2010 the number of suicides rose nationally from 29,350 to 38,364, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The means by which people committed suicide included hanging, drug overdoses, drowning, gunshot and standing in front of oncoming trains, according to experts.

Locke said that McHenry County suicides have more than doubled since 2002, when there were 16. By 2012, there were 38 — and with pending death investigations, that number could climb. In 2011, there were 29. Locke said the ages of people who committed suicide in 2012 ranged from 20 to 88.

The Lake County coroner's office reported 66 suicides in 2012, with some death investigations still pending. In 2011 there were 70. Those who committed suicide in 2012 ranged in age from 17 to 95.

In Cook County, suicides accounted for 389 deaths in 2011, and in 2012 preliminary numbers are at 427, with cases still pending, said Mary Marik, of the Cook County medical examiner's office.

In Kane County, officials reported 43 suicides for 2012, up from 40 in 2011. In 2010 there were 45 suicides.

In DuPage County, the coroner's office has classified 81 deaths in 2012 as suicides; four were 19 or younger. In 2011, suicides accounted for 88 deaths, and in 2010 the number was the highest it had been in the prior 17 years — 94, according to officials.

DuPage County Coroner Richard Jorgensen called the growing number of suicides, especially among young people, heartbreaking.

"We probably cannot change the homicide rate by education or through work through the coroner's office, but we can attempt to change suicides in our county by addressing the issue through education and outreach," Jorgensen said. "I really do believe that, and I really believe that we should be dedicated to that in the future."

In Will County suicide has grown steadily from 39 in 2009, to 50 in 2010, 52 in 2011 and 61 confirmed suicide in 2012 with some cases still pending.

Will County Coroner Patrick O'Neil, like others, think suicides could be linked to a mix of mental health issues, financial worries, and relationship problems. One other reason he has seen more of in recent years is when a person gets bad medical news.

"There is just a mix of problems that folks might have," O'Neil said.

Despina McBride, interim manager for McHenry County Crisis Program, agreed. She said the solution is not easy.

"When we looked at employment, many had jobs," she said. "We don't know if they were underemployed, but ... most (were) employed that have committed suicides this year."