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For more information contact:

John D. Law
Office of Communications & Legislative Affairs
West Virginia Department of health and Human Resources
Phone: 304-558-7899 Fax: 304-558-7075
e-mail: JohnLaw@wvdhhr.org

For immediate release

New Report on Suicide in West Virginia Released

According to a report from the Bureau for Public Health, Health Statistics Center, entitled Selected Data on Suicides, West Virginia and the United States, suicide remains a serious problem in West Virginia.

In West Virginia, the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities, Valley HealthCare System, and the Hott Coalition have come together to form the West Virginia Council for the Prevention of Suicide. Bob Musick, the council's director, will be presenting three workshops on the prevention of suicide across the state in May and June of 2005.

A workshop was held in Mineral Wells on May 25, the second will be in Charleston on June 3, and the third in Morgantown on June 17. The workshops will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m.. The cost is $10.

The report looks at suicide deaths in the state and the nation from 1992 through 2001 and reveals some troubling statistics for the state. Suicide deaths decreased slightly in the United States over the 10-year study, but West Virginia saw an increase from 12.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 1992 to 15.0 in 2001. The greatest difference in rates was found among men, where the state suicide rate was 26.8 deaths per 100,000 men in 2001, compared with a rate of 18.1 among men nationwide.

The report also examines suicide rates among varying age groups. West Virginia's rates over three time periods between 1993 and 2001 are higher among all ages than overall United States rates among the same age groups. The highest rates in both the state and nation are reported among older adults from 1999-2001. The national rate among this group was 15.4 deaths per 100,000 population, while the state rate was nearly 30 percent higher, at 19.9 deaths per 100,000.

West Virginians are much more likely than the rest of the nation to choose a firearm when attempting suicide. From 1999-2001, 56 percent of suicides in the United States were firearm related, while in West Virginia the rate was 71 percent. Older adults were even more likely to use a firearm than suicide victims nationwide.

Because 75 percent of adults aged 65 and older who commit suicide visit a doctor within one month before their suicide, the report emphasizes the need to improve detection and treatment or depression by health professionals who see patients on a regular basis. Also emphasized is the need to treat suicide like any other public health threat. Adequate surveillance systems must be place to determine where the problems are and who is most at risk.

For information concerning the workshops, contact Mike Slaughter at Valley HealthCare, 304-296-1751, ext. 175.

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