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Idaho’s suicide rate up in 2009

NAMPA, Idaho — State health officials say Idaho’s 2009 suicide rate was 22 percent higher than the previous year.

Governor’s Council on Suicide Prevention chairwoman Katie Garrett says the poor economy is a factor in the increase from 251 suicides in 2008 to 307 last year.

“I believe we’ll see another increase” for 2010, said Garrett, who served as a Republican state representative from Boise in 2002-06. “Hopefully it’s not going to be the same (substantial) growth. We have a lot of work to do.”

The Idaho Press-Tribune reports Idaho has consistently ranked high for suicide rate and is the only state without its own suicide prevention hotline. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, calls to a national suicide hotline from Idaho have increased from 1,473 in 2006 to 3,633 in 2009.

“We can’t put our finger directly and say this is the one cause,” Garrett said. “But we do know we are seeing an increase because of the economy. Unemployment is a stressor, home foreclosure is a stressor. The citizens are really hurting.”

Idaho lost its suicide prevention hotline in 2007, after it lost its nonprofit status and couldn’t get funding, former executive director and Boise State University professor Peter Wollheim said.

Idaho State University released a 198-page study earlier this month that found the state could run a a suicide prevention hotline for $100,000 a year. But there’s no state agency charged with suicide prevention, Garrett said, and in the current economy, no agencies are volunteering for the task.

The Idaho Health and Welfare Department does not have the funding for a suicide hotline now, department spokeswoman Emily Simnitt said. But she said the department is working with community partners to explore the feasibility of creating one.

Tags: suicides