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392 Suicides Reported; County Officials Urge People to Get Help

March 14, 2012 (San Diego) -- A total of 392 suicides were reported last year,  the highest number in   23 years. This and the tragic suicides reported recently prompted County mental health officials to remind the public to learn the warning signs of suicide and to seek help.

“It’s sad to know we are losing more than one person each day to suicide,” said Supervisor Greg Cox, County Board of Supervisors. “It’s important for residents to know the County offers mental health services for children and adults.”

See a PowerPoint presentation of the statistics. Of the 392 suicides reported in the region in 2011, 290 were white, 45 Hispanic , 23 Asian , 22 black , and 12 victims from other ethnic groups. Men still outnumbered women three to one.  Mental health officials say the increasing number of suicides, especially last year, is troubling. Knowing the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and where to get help could potentially save a life.

As the population of any region increases, the number of suicides per year is expected to increase. In San Diego County the rate of suicides in the region has not changed in several years. The suicide rate—adjusting for population increases—was around 12 per every 100,000 people in 2011, lower than in the mid-1990s, when it rose to more than 14 per 100,000 people.

“Suicide can be prevented. We all should learn the warning signs of suicide and where to get help so  we can be ready to provide assistance if needed,” said Nick Macchione, Director of the County Health and Human Services Agency. “Suicide affects not only the individual. The devastating impact reaches far beyond those who take their own lives.”

The causes of suicide are complex. Research has shown that the majority of people who die by suicide were clinically depressed or suffered from another diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder.

Most people who are depressed do not kill themselves; however untreated depression could increase the risk of suicide.
Some of the risk factors and warning signs of suicide include:
  • Talking of hurting or killing oneself
  • Hopelessness or helplessness
  • Divorce, separation, stress on family
  • Loss of health (real or imaginary)
  • Loss of job or home
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Daring or risk-taking behavior
Most people who attempt or complete a suicide had one or more warning signs prior to the attempt.

“People think about hurting themselves when they feel hopeless and powerless,” said Alfredo Aguirre, Director of County Mental Health Services. “When a friend or a loved one comes to you for help, take it seriously. If he or she is having thoughts of suicide or ending it all, seek help immediately.”

An important component of the County’s Live Well, San Diego! initiative is to focus on the entire health of a person, including their mental health, and the safety of everyone around them. People in suicidal danger should call 911. The County operates an Access and Crisis Line seven days a week, 24 hours a day at (888) 724-7240. The hotline receives about 7,000 calls each month. Help and resources are also available   

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