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Study: Young white men face higher suicide risk

Legal issues and relationship problems were main reasons for those taking their lives.

The Indianapolis Star,  Staff Report, November 23, 2002

White men younger than 65 are most likely to commit suicide in Indianapolis, often because of relationship or legal problems, according to a new study that examined four years of data in Marion County.

Health officials said Friday they hoped the findings would help them develop ways to prevent suicide, which they termed an epidemic in Indiana.

"We wanted to get a better idea of educational or intervention services to focus on," said Lori Lovett, director of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The coalition was formed last year after the U.S. surgeon general released a national strategy for suicide prevention and encouraged states to develop plans. Indiana's plan is expected to be completed within a year, Lovett said, and would focus on increasing funding and raising awareness of suicide prevention.

"We want to make suicide prevention a priority and help direct financial resources to the issue," she said.

The study, a joint effort of the Indiana Partnership To Prevent Firearm Violence and the Indiana State Department of Health, examined 468 suicides committed in Indianapolis from 1998 to 2001. Among the findings:

• Eighty-three percent of those who committed suicide were male; 84 percent were white.

• Forty-seven percent had a history of depression or another existing mental illness; 27 percent, most frequently young adults, had abused drugs or alcohol.

• Sixty-four percent of men and more than 30 percent of women used a gun; more than 30 percent overdosed on drugs.

• Relationship problems, such as a divorce or breakup, or legal issues were the most common reasons people younger than 65 committed suicide; health problems were the most common reasons for people older than 65.

Although the findings are similar to those in other states, Indiana's suicide rate has been higher than the national average for more than a decade, Lovett said.

From 1996 to 1998, Indiana's suicide rate was 12.25 per 100,000, second-highest in the Midwest behind Kentucky.

From 1991 to 2000, 7,015 people committed suicide in the state, an average of nearly two people a day, officials said.

"If there is one, there's too many," said Megan Query-Roth of the Suicide Prevention Coalition. "Any suicides are unacceptable because it is a completely preventable issue."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2002 The Indianapolis Star