HOLMBERG: Well-known Richmond campaign advisor among surge in middle-aged suicides

Posted at 12:00 AM, May 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-31 06:24:15-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Rich Savage, was larger than life, a mentor to inner-city kids and campaign advisor for countless Democrats across the state.

“Very smart, quick wit,” said Richmond City Councilman Chris Hilbert, one of many helped by Savage. “A guy to go have a beer with. A great guy. He’s going to be missed."

Savage, a father of twin girls at University of Virginia, was absolutely passionate, friends said. Full of humor and life.

And one of the 40,000 or so people who will kill themselves in the United States this year.

He was found dead in his Cherokee Road home earlier this month.

Friends said there were business and personal issues, and it hurt that he got beat in the fourth district Richmond school board race in November. But suicide?

“I’m really surprised,” Hilbert said.

About a thousand people kill themselves in this state each year. It’s always troubling, something whispered painfully about for the most part.

But when it’s a high profile person like Savage, or like prominent attorney and political candidate Matt Geary last year, it can’t be ignored.

Savage, 51, is among the age group that has seen a 50 percent jump in suicides in the past decade - males in their 50s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

The group with the highest rate of suicides is no longer teens, but baby boomers, many of whom are facing bleak retirements far different than their expectations. The economy is thought to have spurred suicides, as it did during the Great Depression. And deliberate overdoses of pain meds and hangings have increased dramatically.

And the problem is believed to be even larger than the numbers, since suicides can be reported as other kinds of deaths, such as accidents and overdoses.

Suicides touch just about every family in the nation. More people die by suicide than in motor vehicle accidents. And look at all we do to try to improve driving safety.

And experts say the suicide problem may only grow worse with the aging of the boomer generation, the high cost of health care (including mental health care), the breakdown of the family, social isolation, the continued bad economy and the still-high divorce rate.

Suicide, a subject that has long been a painful one for our society to discuss, needs to be talked about the same way we speak of other severe health care issues.

And if anyone you know is talking about it, please listen and seek help. And anyone reading this who is considering it, know you are not alone. Send me an email at and call someone immediately.

State resources:

For veterans:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Richmond, Facebook site: