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Massachusetts suicides up 40 percent over 10-year period

There were more suicides in 2014 than the combined number of deaths attributable to homicide and motor vehicle accidents, according to a report.

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There were 608 suicides in Massachusetts in 2014, more than the combined number of deaths attributable to homicide and motor vehicle accidents, according to a report placed on file with the Legislature by the state Department of Public Health.

The report, submitted by Public Heath Commissioner Monica Bharel and dated Feb. 1, found the suicide rate in Massachusetts has increased an average of 3.1 percent per year since 2004, with about 40 percent more suicides in 2014 compared to 2004. The 2014 numbers are the most recently available data.

About 77 percent of suicide victims were male, the report said, and most suicides in 2014 involved people between 35 years old and 64 years old. The rate of suicide among males increased 29 percent from 2004 to 2014, and surged 48 percent among females.

According to the report, there were 328 traffic-related fatalities in Massachusetts during 2014 and 147 homicides that year.

At 9 per 100,000 residents, the Massachusetts suicide rate is "one of the lowest in the country" and lower than the national rate of 12.9 suicides per 100,000 people in 2014, the report said.

A low rate of household gun ownership, better access to emergency medical care, a robust behavioral health industry and suicide prevention program funding were cited in the report among the reasons for the state's suicide rate being lower than the national rate.

But with numbers on the rise, the report's authors described suicide as "a major public health problem in Massachusetts."

Suicide prevention advocates are planning a "State House day" on Monday to discuss the issue and recognize Speaker Pro Tempore Patricia Haddad and Rep. James Cantwell for their suicide prevention work.

The report said 22 percent of female suicide victims and 17 percent of male victims were known to have had a prior suicide attempt. And 56 percent of female suicide victims and 41 percent of male suicide victims were known to have had a history of treatment for substance abuse or mental health problems.

A 2014 law aimed at reducing gun violence included a requirement that state public health officials collect, record and analyze data on all suicides.

The report showed that 49 percent of suicides in 2014 involved hanging or suffocation, 21 percent firearms, and 17 percent poisoning.

Franklin County had the highest suicide rate in 2014 —16.9 per 100,000 people — and the lowest rate was posted in Suffolk County, 6.5 suicides per 100,000 people. The highest number of suicides, 115, occurred in Middlesex County, according to the report.

 

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