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Suicide Attempts In Connecticut: Nation's Second-Highest Rate

But Actual Suicide Rate Is One Of The Lowest


October 22, 2011

In 2008 and 2009, Connecticut had the second-highest rate of suicide attempts in the nation among people 18 and older, according to a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the period studied, 1 percent of Connecticut residents surveyed attempted suicide, compared to the national average of 0.5 percent. Rhode Island had the highest rate, at 1.5 percent.

But actual suicides in both states are relatively low. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Connecticut's suicide rate in 2007 was 7.7 people per 100,000 the third-lowest in the nation. Rhode Island's suicide rate was the sixth-lowest, according to the same set of statistics.

The CDC's comprehensive study the first of its kind examined suicidal behavior state-by-state. Besides suicide attempts, the study also looked at the prevalence of those who had "serious thoughts of suicide" and those who made plans to kill themselves. It did not include actual suicides.

In the other categories the CDC studied, Connecticut fared closer to the middle, although it was consistently higher than average among Northeast states.

Andrea Duarte, behavioral health program manager for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said the numbers regarding older people and suicide reflect some of the trends that state health officials have noticed in recent years. She said middle-aged people have been among the fastest-rising group among suicide victims.

"The 45-to-64 group over the past few years has gone up," she said. "That has been attributed to the economy, and there's some relevance to the war and the loss of military personnel."

Among college-age students, Duarte said, problems with finding jobs and significant changes in social life are factors.

"Why Connecticut is higher, I don't really know," she said. "That's one of our jobs, to take a look at that and find out why those things are happening.

Reflecting national trends, in Connecticut non-Hispanic white people were the most likely among racial and ethnic groups to think about and attempt suicide.

In most of the states, CDC researchers surveyed groups of between 876 and 984 people for each of the two years.

In several categories, Rhode Island was at or near the top. Annemarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Public Health, said she wondered how representative the survey sample was of the state's population of 1.1 million. If a disproportionate number of those surveyed were from the state's poorer cities, she said, it would skew the statistics higher.

"What are the demographics of those 800 people?" she said.

Sharyn Parks, one of the researchers who led the study, said "the thing that was really interesting to us was looking at the variations from state to state." The study did not explore causes for the variations, but Parks said some theories have been discussed.

"There may be something about the social makeup of these areas that puts residents at a higher risk," she said. For instance, she said, states with a high divorce rate or unemployment rate might be more likely to have high numbers. Lack of access to health care could be another factor, she said, which might explain why many sparsely populated states scored high.

"Anyone having suicidal thoughts, or who knows someone they believe is having such thoughts, can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help. The number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255)."

The complete CDC report is at http://1.usa.gov/p6S8kv.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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