The escalating crisis has affected nearly every group and place, but the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that some parts of the country have been hit especially hard. Here’s a closer look at the study and the stories behind some of the data.
Veteran deaths help account for Montana’s high rate.
Montana has the country’s highest suicide rate, and suicides by military veterans are a significant contributor. A state study found that veterans account for more than 20 percent of Montana’s suicides and that veterans have a suicide rate more than twice that of nonveterans.
“All the issues that we have in Montana are magnified in our veteran population,” said Karl Rosston, the state’s suicide prevention coordinator. Mr. Rosston said rural isolation, easy access to guns and a lack of mental health services likely contributed to Montana’s suicide rate, which has been among the country’s highest for decades.
States with the lowest suicide rates have stricter gun laws.
Guns are used in nearly half of all suicides, and ready access to weaponsis one of several risk factors. New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut have the country’s lowest suicide rates. Those states are Democratic-leaning in their politics, clustered in the Northeast and have some of the country’s strictest gun control laws, though researchers say many other factors could account for their low rates.
The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which assigns letter grades to each state based on their strictness, grades each of those five states at a B+ level or higher. Texas and Nebraska, which have slightly higher suicide rates, have comparatively loose gun laws.
White people and men are dying by the thousands.
Suicide rates have increased across gender and geographic lines, but nearly 84 percent of people who kill themselves are white, and about 77 percent are men.
“There are mental health components, but also there’s relationships, employment, a lack of connectedness that we might see in males that increases the risk for suicide,” said Misty Vaughan Allen, Nevada’s state suicide prevention coordinator.
Some point to gun seizure laws as a solution.
Gun control advocates have called for more states to pass laws that allow police officers to seize guns from people they deem dangerous. In Indiana, where such a law has been on the books since 2005, a recent study linked the measure to a 7.5 percent drop from the expected rate of firearm suicides.
“We think that it has thwarted at least several suicides,” said the county sheriff, John Boyd, a Republican. “We’ve at least given them a time period to at least better think about their options and get them the help they need.”
Nevada is a hopeful outlier.
Forty-nine states saw their suicide rates increase over the course of the C.D.C. study, in many cases by double-digit percentages.
Nevada was the lone exception, with a slight reduction in its rate. State officials attributed the improvement to years of work with community groups and in isolated towns where people are at a higher risk of suicide. But the state’s suicide rate remains among the country’s 10 highest.
“We’re still concerned about Nevada,” said Deborah Stone, the author of the C.D.C. study.
*Please note: This is based on 2016 numbers and not all of the phrases in this article are in compliance with National Suicide Prevention guidelines. For additional information, see the CDC WISQARS database.
Sundays for Jerome Penaranda meant “mom time” with his 66-year-old mother, Vivian — an afternoon church service followed by traditional Filipino cuisine at Goldilocks bakery in Las Vegas.
So when she didn’t call as usual around 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, 2017 — right after her Zumba class — he wondered if something was wrong.
The horrifying answer arrived in the early hours of Monday, when Vivian Penaranda, 66, was found dead in her apartment. The window cracks were covered with pieces of cloth; prescription medications lined a table.
A brief note offered Jerome and his sister an apology and asked Jesus for forgiveness for taking her own life.
Vivian Penaranda was one of nearly 90 people 65 and older who committed suicide in Clark County last year, according to the coroner’s office. That played a big role in making Nevada the state with the highest suicide rate among seniors in the nation, according to a report published Thursday.
Lack of connectedness
About 32 of every 100,000 Nevadans over 65 die from suicide, according to a new report by the United Health Foundation. That’s nearly double the average U.S. suicide rate among seniors and up from the state’s rate of 29.6 per 100,000 in 2017.
Nevada’s last-in-the-nation ranking, a position it has held in four of the five years the foundation has studied suicide rate, is “very concerning,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, the foundation’s chief medical officer and executive vice president for UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions.
One reason for that, she said, is that the report raises more questions than it answers. While suicide is often correlated to frequent mental distress, multiple chronic health conditions and excessive drinking and substance use, Nevada ranks near the middle of the pack in many of those categories.
Richard Egan, suicide prevention training and outreach facilitator for the state’s Office of Suicide Prevention, attributes high rates of suicide to the lack of a feeling of connectedness.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for years,” Egan said. “We always talk about how we can address it, and the thing that we address it with, especially with out elderly, is connectedness: connectedness in family, in communities, in a neighborhood.”
Thursday’s report does contain clues that suggest a lack of community involvement might be an issue. The report measures involvement in volunteer work, for example, which Randall said can point to how actively a person participates in their community.
On that measure, Nevada came in last.
Apart from her weekly visits with her son, Vivian Penaranda largely kept to herself. She lived on her own and kept secrets from her family. Jerome Penaranda said he wasn’t aware of the severity of his mother’s medical conditions, including diabetes and heart problems, until he saw the prescription bottles piling up in her home.
Penaranda said he wishes he’d noticed the warning signs while there was time to intervene. Once in a while, his mom asked for information about life insurance, or said she was depressed. He thinks she worried about burdening him and his sister — a common concern among elderly people with suicidal tendencies, Egan said.
It’s also common for relatives to miss signals that a loved one might be considering ending his or her life, he said. Among the elderly, losing a sense of identity or involvement in family or community are common warning signs. Others include talk or writing indicating hopelessness, a fixation on death, threats to inflict self harm or raw emotions like rage and anxiety. Mood disorders, substance abuse, prior suicide attempts and access to lethal means also are major risk factors, he said.
“It all comes down to a person acting maladaptive or out of character for themselves,” Egan said.
Anyone concerned that a person might be considering ending their life should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or reach out to local police.
In her memory
For Penaranda, there will never be enough time to get over the loss of his mother. He reminds his friends now to spend more time with their older loved ones and show them they’re a priority, he said.
Before his mother’s death, Penaranda planned to take her on a vacation to the Philippines, her birth country, after she retired from her cashier job at Excalibur. It would’ve been a retirement gift.
Instead, he tattooed his arm in her memory.
“It says, ‘I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,’” Penaranda said. “It’s just a reminder to stay strong, believe in God and just know that she’s up there in a better place.”
The Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention
invites you to join us on
September 15, 2018
Walk in Memory
Walk for Hope
Suicide Prevention Community Walks
Battle Mtn/ Caliente / Carson / Dayton / Elko / Ely / Fallon / Henderson-Las Vegas / Mesquite / Minden / Pahrump / Reno / Winnemucca / Yerington
The Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to partnering and collaborating with local and state individuals and organizations for the development and implementation of evidence based suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention strategies and programs in the State of Nevada.
All walkers are welcome. All donations gratefully accepted.
Contributions go to the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention to advance its mission.
For more information call the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention
(Las Vegas) 702-486-8225 ● (Reno) 775-684-2238
or visit the NCSP website at www.nvsuicideprevention.org
STOP THE STIGMA!
Stigma makes me feel….. How do you think or know someone experiencing mental health stigma feels?
YOUTH POSTER CONTEST
Who: Anyone 17 years old or younger that lives in Clark County, NV
How to submit: Visit the Youth Contest Page at www.cccmhc.org
M. Amaris Knight: email@example.com
DEADLINE: Friday, March 23, 2018
CLARK COUNTY CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH CONSORTIUM
Mental health stigma is the negative attitudes and labels people may experience because they have a mental health issue. Stigma can make it difficult for people to feel accepted or to ask for help. This contest will help bring awareness to the problem of mental health stigma in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week in May.
A prize will be awarded to a winner and winning poster may be displayed in schools in Nevada.
All posters must meet the following standards:
Final poster size will be 17 inches X 22 inches so resolution of final poster must be clear at this size.
Posters must be original artwork, and may contain multi-media components, no copyrighted material
Posters will be displayed publicly to all ages, and so should be respectful of others. Avoid bad language or other inappropriate language or images.
All posters will be submitted digitally as a PDF, JPEG, or PNG file
Must include text in a type and font that is easy to read
Parents and teachers may submit an entry on a youth’s behalf
CCCMHC will include the following information on each poster displayed: For more information about how to stop mental health stigma, visit www.cccmhc.org.
View our 2017 Walk In Memory Walk For Hope Photo Gallery from Las Vegas.
Photo Credit: Hannah Masluk