Sep 25, 2014 12:12 AM

Suicide in NH: Suicide rate in North Country higher than other parts of NH


CONCORD - We continue our in-depth series on suicide and this time we take a look at two issues affecting us here in New Hampshire.

NH1 wanted to know why, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health, so many seniors are committing suicide. We also wanted to know why more people are taking their lives in the North Country, more than any other part of New Hampshire.

First, we flashback to a story that made headlines around the world.

An elderly woman, 96, jumped from the balcony of her Florida condo. Police say she left a suicide note behind.

That story may be shocking to many but experts say it's happening but just not getting a lot of attention.

"The elderly and particularly elderly males are at high risk," said Ken Norton, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Health. We recognize that suicide is an issue across the life span. It really doesn't matter what age the person is. There's risk across all age groups."

Norton said the numbers surrounding suicide in the elderly can be misleading.

850 seniors took their lives between 2006 and 2010. That's more than any other age group.

Norton said one of the possible reasons is that, "As with any age, when you add substance use in it increases the risk of suicide. There are very serious rates of substance abuse disorder in older adults."

Asking a question like that is just one of the reasons, Norton said, to help someone who may be in trouble.

"And asking them directly like you'd ask anyone directly," Norton said. "Are you thinking about killing yourself? Have you ever thought about suicide?"

Many, he said, take their lives because they've outlived many of their relatives, their driver's licenses and for some, their independence.

As for the North Country, there are no specific numbers of the elderly taking their lives but NH1 has learned it's happening in that part of the state more than anywhere else.

When asked if there's a simple reason for this, Norton said no.

"We know that statistics from New Hampshire as well as from across the country is that suicide is much more of an issue that it is in rural areas than it is in urban areas," he said.

State officials broke down the suicide rate county by county.

• Carroll County with 18.4%
• Belknap County with 17.6%
• Coos County with 16.8 percent
• Merrimack Couty with 12.8%
• Hillsborough County with 12.8%

Norton said the numbers don't tell the entire story.

When asked if there are a lot of different factors to take into consideration when you compare county by county, Norton said yes.

"Because if you just looked at your numbers obviously the numbers would be very different based on the population," he said.

And now if the population rate goes up in New Hampshire, officials hope the suicide rate will decline if there's early intervention, like these smart phone apps.

» There are multiple updates to this story. Please click here to get the latest information.

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