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Suicide Rate Is on the Rise in NYC

By Nicole Levy | September 14, 2016 6:26pm
 An increase in the rate of suicides in New York City
An increase in the rate of suicides in New York City "tells us that we’re not reaching New Yorkers early enough when they need support,” the city's Health Commissioner said in a press release Wednesday.
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Shutterstock/Oleg Golovnev

MANHATTAN — Suicide rates are on the rise in New York City, especially among women, according to a new study from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

The Health Department reported 565 deaths by suicide — or 5.5 deaths per 100,000 New Yorkers — in 2014. That's up from 448 — or 6.3 deaths — in 2000.

“This concerning increase in the suicide rate in New York City tells us that we’re not reaching New Yorkers early enough when they need support,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said in a press release Wednesday.

The agency is drawing attention to that increase as it devotes resources to Thrive NYC, a city initiative raising awareness about mental health issues and increasing access to care services.

An increase in overall suicide rates in New York reflects the trend across the country, but while rates among both men and women have increased steadily nationwide, the rate among men in New York has held with a rate of 9.7 deaths in 2014 — although rates continue to rise among white men, who also make up the majority of deaths by suicide.

Meanwhile, suicide became less common among young men ages 18 to 24, dropping from 12.6 to 8.6 deaths.

Suicide rates among women in the city, on the other hand, have grown. The study found that women died by suicide at an increasing rate over the 14-year period examined by the Health Department, from a rate of 2.3 in 2000 to 3.9 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2014.

suicide graphs

Credit: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Suicide rates among New Yorkers of Asian or Pacific Islander descent also rose significantly, from 3.3 to 6.1 deaths over the 14-year period.

By contrast, there were 271 motor vehicle deaths and 353 deaths by homicide per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2015, according to the Summary of Vital Statistics for the City of New York.

New Yorkers were most likely to commit suicide by hanging, strangulation and suffocating, or jumping from a high place, according to the study published Wednesday. 

The percentage of suicides due to hanging, strangulation and suffocating climbed from 29 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2014. Running counter to that trend is a decrease in the number of deaths by jumping from a high place, which dropped among both men and women over the same time period.

Still, the proportion of deaths by jumping from a high place among both male and female New Yorkers was about eight times the national rate.

Epidemiologist Dr. Guohua Li, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said that this is one area where the city can intervene by limiting access to rooftops, bridges, and other high places.

"If you put some fences, some barrier, like what San Francisco did to the Golden Gate bridge, you can expect a dramatic reduction in suicides," he said.

New Yorkers are less likely than the overall U.S. population to commit suicide by firearm; while 10 percent of suicides in the city were due to firearms in 2014, half of those across the country were attributed to the same cause.

The rate of deaths by suicide reported in the city is about half of the rate nationwide.

The Health Department's study also illuminates the correlation between suicide and poverty. From 2012 to 2014, neighborhoods where 10 to 20 percent of residents had an income below the federal poverty level had a suicide rate of 7.8 deaths, compared to a rate of 3.8 deaths in neighborhoods where less than 10 percent of residents had an income below that level.

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For its data brief, the Health Department tapped its own death records and population estimates, as well as statistics on neighborhood poverty from the American Community Survey.

You can read about the warning signs of suicide and prevention tips here