Utah has high suicide rate

Monday , February 20, 2012 - 4:13 PM

Contributed

SALT LAKE CITY— New data from Utah’s Office of Vital Records shows the state has one of the nation’s highest rates of suicide.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/xN0q7Y) the data shows 495 people took their own lives in 2011. That’s up from 455 suicides in 2010.

"It’s a problem we’ve had for a long time, and it’s not going anywhere," Jenny Johnson, education coordinator at the Utah Department of Health, said in a story the newspaper published on Monday. Utah Department of Health officials say the increase isn’t statistically significant because the state population also grew.

An analysis of Utah’s 2010 deaths found nearly 40 percent of those who committed suicide had conflicts with an intimate partner.

Slightly more than half had been diagnosed with mental illness. Another 15 percent had reported suffering financial problems.

"One of the big questions was: Were our economic factors becoming more common as an issue driving people to this extreme?" said Todd Grey, Utah chief medical examiner. "I have not seen a marked increase where we’re getting investigation information that financial ruin has been the tipping point."

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published recent from 2008 and 2009 data found 6.8 percent of Utah adults experienced suicidal thoughts, the nation’s highest rate. Georgia had the lowest rate at 2.1 percent.

Officials say suicide had become a major concern — both in Utah and nationally — for members of the military, particularly returned veterans. Utah National Guard Chaplain Gerald White said he often counsels individuals who have considered suicide.

"We are attempting to help soldiers understand ... how to bounce back," said White, who is also a member of Utah’s Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Research suggests that a high suicide rate among residents of the Intermountain West may be tied to elevation, rural communities with fewer health resources, access to firearms and a heavily western European population, which has been shown to have more suicidal thoughts.

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