As sheriff’s detectives, Yancy Denning and Tim Armstrong are usually on the scene of any death that might require an investigation.

Even after decades-long careers in law enforcement, both agree that an officer’s first experience dealing with a death stays with you for life, and that’s particularly true with suicide.

“Over the years, dealing with death is a lot different for me,” Denning said. “But your first, you don’t forget. ... My first was a hanging. The man died with an infant in a bassinet in the same room.”

Armstrong didn’t provide details, but said he was new to law enforcement when he dealt with his first suicide — a juvenile. “I never saw anything like that before,” he recalled. “All I can think of is, if they had just waited a day, or an hour,” perhaps the pain or hopelessness they were feeling would have passed.

“Adults often feel like they are a burden” when they choose to die by suicide, Denning said. “One in particular I know of recently, he lost his job and felt he was a burden to his family and came to the decision they would be better off without him around.”

With young people, there tend to be different factors, he said.

“The hardest [suicide case] for us is when it’s younger people, because in today’s time, with social media and everything else, there’s a lot more bullying. Some of it may not be intentional; other times, kids are just mean sometimes, and some people just can’t handle that for whatever reason. They think this is the answer.”

Armstrong agreed. “People handle pressure differently.”

What the bully may not see or understand is that a lot of times, people are going through stuff and you have no idea, because they’re careful to not let it show, Denning said.

While any tragic death is devastating to family and friends, he believes suicide “impacts the community as a whole because, in my opinion, those are preventable deaths. You have accidents, emergencies and stuff like that people lose their life from. But suicides, they are taking their own life for some reason. It’s intentional.

“Sometimes you know they are going through a struggle,” whether it’s medical, financial, relationship problems or something else, Denning said. “So you can kind of get to the bottom of it.”

But too often, there is nothing apparent in a case to answer a family’s most furtive question: Why.

“I think there’s a common misconception that every suicide you have, there’s going be a note, or somebody’s told somebody that they’re going to do it,” Denning said. “Nowadays with social media, [it’s assumed] maybe they’ve texted somebody or they’ve written something out or called somebody beforehand. A lot of times that doesn’t happen, so we are left with why.”

That leaves families with a “hole in their life and trying to figure out why it happened or what they could have done to prevent this,” he said.

Even more confounding are cases in which those left behind describe the deceased as seeming to be happier than they had been previously.

“A lot of times, we find [the deceased] had their mind made up and they were at peace with their decision,” Denning said. “And they want people to remember them being happy.”

Armstrong said often, too, people who are planning suicide “will reach out to people they haven’t talked to in a long time,” as though they are saying good-bye. That’s not always clear until later.

As with Coroner Rodney Nay, Denning and Armstrong said cases of drug overdose can be suicide in disguise. And with the increase in drug use, here and nationwide, it’s becoming more difficult to discern.

Sheriff John Wallace said heroin and methamphetamine are coming to the community “by the truckload.”

“We’re inundated with drugs. Not just our community; it’s everywhere,” Denning said. “You could have a town of 100 people and have a drug problem. ... Now you can get something delivered in a matter of minutes. It’s ease of access.”

Synthetic drugs can even be ordered online and delivered to your doorstep, he added. And those synthetics can be much more potent than heroin or methamphetamine.

In one overdose case, he said, the person had taken a synthetic drug so potent that he had a body temperature of 108 degrees when he died. “That’s what it does to you.”

Wallace and his deputies support the Healthy Communities Initiative sponsored by King’s Daughters’ Health, which has representatives from all sectors of the community — from public officials to non-profit groups.

“It’s important to keep that open line of communication,” Armstrong said.

“Any group that can get something out there has got to be a positive. ... When it comes to suicides, the more it’s talked about and the more education that’s out there, especially signs that people show,” the better, Denning said. “If you’ve never talked about it, you don’t know what the signs are.”