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After years of studying data of suicides in Arizona, one group at ASU hopes more attention will be given to those really in need

ASU study focuses on who's at higher risk of suicide in Arizona.

PHOENIX — Suicide is a problem in the United States that's not often talked about. However, a group at Arizona State University is putting a spotlight on the issue and is taking a closer look at some of the reasons behind it.

Between 2015 and 2020, ASU's Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety studied suicide closely and what could increase someone's risk.

"We collect data from death certificates, we get all the death certificate data, and we use that data to reach out to all the medical examiner offices as well as all the law enforcement agencies and request their official reports," said director Charles Katz.

Katz said the focus was on demographics, location, and circumstances surrounding the death.

After studying 7,651 cases statewide, some interesting trends were found.

"While people often times focus on youth and teens around those issues," Katz said. "They're the least likely to commit suicide in the state of Arizona."

First, about 27% of people who committed suicide were involved in a volatile relationship (whether it be emotional or physical). Also, in 58.9% of cases overall, a firearm was used.

"In the Native American community, hangings are much more common," he said. "But outside that community, it is a gun that will be used to commit suicide."

Katz though was surprised to find those aged 65 and up, and especially those aged 75 and up, are more likely to commit suicide, which he said is a reason why more resources for that age group are needed.

"We really aren't giving these folks the attention they need and quite frankly deserve," he said.

Katz also said, based on the data, there are some counties in Arizona where attention is needed.

"Mohave and Yavapai counties are out there we see substantially higher rates there," Katz said. "They're almost double. We think part of it is a resource issue and geographic isolation. 

Maricopa County is about 16 suicides per 100,000 population compared to the state average of 20 or so. Conversely, in Mohave and Yavapai, they're about 34 per 100,000."

With another five years of funding, the study continues. This brings Katz to hope more insight will be found to help with these troubling trends.

The study also finds:

  • 3 in 5 victims (59.6%) had known suicidal thoughts, attempts or disclosure of intent.
  • 32.1% indicated a problem with addiction
  • 62.7% involved people with a history or current mental health problem
  • 68.5% tested positive for a substance

"I would really like to see more effort and resources given to rural communities that need assistance," Katz said. "I do think we need to spend more time thinking about going to these communities and how they can be rich environments for individuals to not just grow up in but grow old in."

RELATED: 'You are not alone': Arizona athletes raising awareness for suicide prevention

RELATED: Recent teen suicides spark ask for more mental health resources at Chandler school district

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