ALBANY, Ga. -- With the community still reeling in the wake of several recent suicides, many in the area have been searching for answers to why these individuals took their own lives.
Nick Carden, a psychologist with The Renaissance Center located on the 500 block of North Jackson Street, said the answers to these questions are not general.
In a recent interview with The Herald, Carden said a number of factors can contribute to a person's feeling of helplessness that eventually drives them to taking their own life.
One of these "stressors," as Carden calls them, could have been the recent heat wave the area is experiencing.
"If you are looking at the issues of stressors on a person, then indeed one additional stressor could be heat," said the psychologist. "It would not be a causative factor, but it could be an additional factor."
Carden said that high heat and humidity often cause people to experience more irritability and agitation.
"It makes people a little less patient," he said.
The harsh economic times may also factor into the equation, Carden said.
"If I've lost a job or experienced a significant loss of income, then I could be led to believe that I do not see any way out or way to fix it," he said. "If you begin to feel that there is no way out, then it becomes part of feeling hopelessness which may lead to suicide."
Information from Mental Health America ranks suicide as the eighth-leading cause of death in the United States. Approximately 30,000 Americans die by suicide each year, which equates to 91 suicides per day. An additional 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually.
Carden confirmed that men are four times more likely to take their own lives than women.
"The reason for that is men tend to use more lethal methods, but women are three to five times more likely to attempt suicide than men," Carden explained.
Of the five reported suicides in the area, four men have taken their lives.
Carden said the answers that many in the community are seeking may be difficult to decipher, but the ability to prevent future incidents is very clear.
"In 85 percent of suicide cases, there are always warning signs," he said.
Carden said an observant family member or friend might be able to reach out to a person considering suicide before it's too late.
"People need to be aware of significant changes in personality and look for signs that aren't normal," he said.
Carden said these signs might not always be negative, like a failing student suddenly begins to excel in class.
"In studies, we have seen teenage suicide cases where the student that might be failing his courses suddenly begins making strait A's as some sort of last hoorah," he said. "No one would think that is a warning sign, but sudden changes like that could be a red flag."
The psychologist said friends and family members also need to be willing to be open and talk with people who may be showing suicidal behavior.
"We are inclined not to deal with hard topics, but you have to broach the unthinkable topic and make sure they have a plan that is accessible to them," said Carden.
Studies show that an objective third party, such as a therapist or mental health counselor, is usually the best method of preventing suicide.
"A trained person does not have a dog in the fight, so to speak. They can be objective about a person's history and problems instead of perhaps a spouse of family member," said Carden.
The psychologist noted that incidents of suicide tend to leave a geographic region rattled.
"It's not just the life of the person that is disrupted, it affects everyone, one way or another," said Carden.
Among the recent suicide victims in the region are Matthew Lowell Justice and members of the Justice family of Blakely. On July 16, Justice, 37, shot his wife, 36-year-old Amy Lynn Justice, and their two children and then turned the gun on himself.
Justice died from his wounds at the scene of the shooting, which took place in the family's Early County home. Justice's wife and son were also killed. The family's 11-year-old daughter survived.
Denise Markowski was found deceased on the back porch of her Lee County residence on July 28. Police have ruled that she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Darton College student Brandon Schiff, 21, was found hanging dead in a pecan orchard July 29. Schiff had been reported missing two days before his body was discovered. Police have said they believe Schiff died by self-strangulation.
On Wednesday, Marquise Simpson shot his estranged wife, Lacretia Simpson, 31, multiple times in front of their seven children and then shot himself at their home in Grady County. The GBI is still investigating this case.