New Report on Suicides

More from this show

A new report on Arizona suicides has been created. It’s called the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System, and the first report shows a high rate of suicide among older Arizonans. Seniors who are military veterans had the highest suicide rate. Divorced seniors and men over the age of 85 also had a higher risk of suicide. The report was prepared by the ASU Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. Vincent Webb, a researcher at the center and a professor of practice in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, will tell us about the report.


TED SIMONS: THE SAME POLLS SHOWS JOHN MCCAIN LEADING HIS CHALLENGER 12 PERCENTAGE POINTS. PROP 205 WHICH WOULD LEGALIZE RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA LOSING. 2% UNDECIDED. A NEW REPORT ON ARIZONA SUICIDE HAS BEEN RELEASED. IT'S CALLED ARIZONA VIOLENT DEATH REPORTING SYSTEM SHOWING A HIGH RATE OF SUICIDE AMONG OLDER ARIZONANS IN MILITARY SERVICEMAN AND IN DIVORCED SENIOR MEN AT GREATEST RISK. WITH US TO TALK ABOUT IT IS VINCENT WEB. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

VINCENT WEB: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

VINCENT WEB: THIS IS A NEW REPORT ON SUICIDE?

TED SIMONS: tHIS IS A NEW REPORT. THIS IS A RESULT OF A PROJECT THAT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY HAS BECOME INVOLVED IN STARTING IN 2014, THE ARIZONA DEATH REPORTING SYSTEM WHICH IS PART OF WHAT THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL IS TRYING TO DO NATIONALLY IS TO GET A BETTER HANDLE ON VIOLENT DEATH. THEY HAVE SET UP THIS NETWORK ACROSS THE COUNTRY DOING WORK WE ARE STARTING TO DO BY LOOKING INTO MEDICAL EXAMINER REPORTS, POLICE REPORTS AND SO ON SO WE HAVE A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF CAUSES, TRENDS AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT VIOLENT DEATH IN PARTICULAR HOMICIDE AND SUICIDE.

TED SIMONS: OF NOTE IN THE LATEST REPORT WAS THE HIGH RATE OF SUICIDE AMONG SENIORS. TALK TO US ABOUT THAT.

VINCENT WEB: THIS IS A TREND CONSISTENT WITH WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON AROUND THE COUNTRY. I CAN'T SAY IT'S A GROWING TREND, BUT I CAN SAY IT'S HIGH. IT'S HIGH COMPARED TO OTHER POPULATION GROUP DEMOGRAPHIC GROUPS. WE WANTED TO TAKE A DEEPER LOOK AT THIS TREND. THE OVER ALL RATE 2015 IN ARIZONA FORGETTING ABOUT AGE DIFFERENCES IS ABOUT 18 PER 100,000. IN LOOKING AT THE ELDERLY POPULATION, POPULATION OVER 65, THAT RATE IS ABOUT 24 TO 25 SUICIDES PER THOUSAND. GOING BACK TO THAT EARLIER RATE, ARIZONA IS ABOUT THE 13TH HIGHEST IN THE COUNTRY WITH REGARD TO SUICIDE, REGARDLESS OF WHAT AGE YOU ARE TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION. WHEN WE LOOK AT THE ELDERLY, AND WE STARTED LOOKING AT CATEGORIES WITHIN THE ELDERLY, THE RATES BECOME HIGHER. FOR EXAMPLE, IF WE LOOK AT ELDERLY MALES, THE RATE CLIMBS TO ABOUT 40 PER 100,000.

TED SIMONS: AS I MENTIONED, THE HIGHEST RATE WAS MILITARY VETERANS FOUR TIMES HIGHER. SURPRISED IT'S THAT HIGH?

VINCENT WEB: WE ARE TRYING TO DIG DEEPER TO UNDERSTAND THE VETERANS. WHEN WE LOOK AT MILITARY VETERANS, THEIR RATE IS ABOUT TEN POINTS HIGHER THAN ELDERLY MALES PER SE. WE ARE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THAT. WHEN WE ARE LOOKING AT THE ELDERLY, 65 ON UP, WE ARE LOOKING AT A GENERATION FROM VIETNAM ON THE UPPER END EVEN LOOKING AT KOREAN WAR VETERANS AS WELL. WHAT WE'LL BE DOING IS TRYING TO DIG DEEPER TO UNDERSTAND WHAT EXPERIENCES THEY MAY HAVE HAD AS A RESULT OF THEIR MILITARY EXPERIENCE THAT PUT THEM IN THIS HIGH RISK SUICIDE CATEGORY.

TED SIMONS: WHICH WILL BE INTERESTING BECAUSE THEY HAVE MADE IT THUS FAR AND SOMETHING IS TRIGGERED AND THERE YOU GO.

VINCENT WEB: RIGHT. IF IT'S THAT SOMETHING WE ARE NOT QUITE SURE ABOUT. THAT'S PART OF WHAT THIS PROJECT IS ABOUT. THE SOURCE OF DATA, IT'S ONE THING. WE KNOW THROUGH DEATH CERTIFICATE INFORMATION WHETHER A DEATH IS ATTRIBUTED TO SUICIDE OR NOT. WE HAVE KNOWN THAT FOR A LONG TIME BUT WE ARE DEVELOPING A RICH DATABASE THAT WILL ADDRESS ISSUES ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, ABOUT ILLNESS, A NUMBER OF THINGS THAT WILL HELP US TO BETTER UNDERSTAND WHAT THESE RATES MEAN.

TED SIMONS: I HAVE ALSO OF NOTE DIVORCED SENIORS HIGH, TWO TIMES AS HIGH AS SEPARATED, TWO TIMES AS HIGH AS WIDOWED.

VINCENT WEB: RIGHT. WELL, THE BEST EXPLANATION WE HAVE TO DATE OF THAT IS REALLY ONE OF SOCIAL ISOLATION, BECOMING MORE SOCIALLY ISOLATED FROM FAMILY, FRIENDS. WE DON'T KNOW THIS FOR SURE, BUT THAT'S PROBABLY MORE LIKELY FOR AN ELDERLY DIVORCED INDIVIDUAL. IT'S HARD TO SAY WHY THAT WOULD BE DIFFERENT THAN SOMEONE WHO IS SEPARATED. AGAIN, I WISH I HAD THE ANSWER TO THAT RIGHT NOW, BUT I DON'T. HOPEFULLY, SOME OF THE DATA WE ARE LOOKING AT WILL SHED LIGHT ON THAT.

TED SIMONS: NEARLY 80% OF THE SUICIDES AMONG ELDERLY INVOLVE USE OF A FIREARM?

VINCENT WEB: AMONG THE ELDERLY MALES, YES. IF YOU TALK ABOUT THAT THEY OFFER A SIMPLE EXPLANATION WHICH I DON'T THINK WE WANT TO DISMISS AS BEING SIMPLISTIC, THEY HAVE ACCESS TO GUNS. IF YOU COMPARE THE DEATH, MALE VERSUS FEMALES, IT'S VERY DIFFERENT AS YOU SAW IN THE DATA. WOMEN ARE LIKELY TO USE DRUGS AS THE PRIMARY METHOD OF SUICIDE. FOR MEN, IT'S GUNS. ONE OF THE REASONS I THINK FOR THAT IS THEY HAVE EASY ACCESS AND THEY ARE USED TO ACCESS TO WEAPONS.

TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND AND WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE, IS THERE A PLAN TO USE THIS RESEARCH TO FIND WAYS TO BETTER SCREEN THESE FOLKS?

VINCENT WEB: YES. YOU KNOW, AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, WE'LL HAVE A WEALTH DATA, ANALYZE THE DATA NOW. WE'LL KNOW MORE ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION OF THOSE THAT COMMIT SUICIDE, WE'LL KNOW ABOUT THEIR MEDICAL SITUATION BEYOND MENTAL HEALTH AND WHAT WE'LL PROBABLY BE TRYING TO DO IS CONFIRM WHAT OTHERS HAVE FOUND, THAT ONE OF THE MAJOR PROBLEMS HERE IS THAT OF DEPRESSION AMONG THE ELDERLY POPULATION WHICH OFTEN GOES UNDETECTED ESPECIALLY AMONG MALES.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO MENTION THAT. SLEEP, DEPRESSION, THOSE SORTS OF THINGS ARE METRICS TO BE LOOKED AT AS WELL?

VINCENT WEB: THOSE ARE THE THINGS WE ARE EXAMINING. TAKE THOSE THINGS COUPLED WITH SOCIAL ISOLATION, YOU HAVE THE PERFECT STORM FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE TO THE POINT THEY ARE STARTING TO LOSE MEANING WITHIN THEIR LIVES.

TED SIMONS: IS THERE A SENSE WITH THE BOOMER GENERATION GETTING OLDER AND CLOSE, NOT 85 PLUS BUT GETTING CLOSE, IS THERE A SENSE THIS WILL OCCUR MORE OFTEN OR IS THERE A SENSE WITH MORE INFORMATION OUT THERE AND MORE PREVENTION OUT THERE, IT COULD BE EASED.

WE BELIEVE IT COULD BE EASED. THAT'S ONE OF THE FOCAL POINTS OF WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO. WE, FOR EXAMPLE, ALONG WITH OTHERS, YOU KNOW, WOULD LIKE TO EMPHASIZE THE NEED TO DO BETTER SCREENING OF THE ELDERLY FOR DEPRESSION, FOR EXAMPLE, AND FOR DEPRESSION AMONG NOT ONLY FEMALES BUT MALES AS WELL. I THINK THE EVIDENCE THAT WE'LL PRODUCE WILL REALLY HELP DIRECT AND IN SOME CASES REDIRECT OUR FOCUS ON THIS SEGMENT OF THE POPULATION.

TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION BEFORE YOU GO. DID ANYTHING IN HERE SURPRISE YOU?

VINCENT WEB: I SUPPOSE THAT IF THERE IS ONE THING THAT SURPRISED ME -- THERE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS. ONE IS THE RATE OF GUN USE IN MALES. IT SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISING, BUT IT WAS. I HAVEN'T SEEN THE STATISTIC QUITE THAT WAY, AND I THINK THE OTHER THING WAS WITH THE RATE OF SUICIDE FOR VETERANS. THAT SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISING, BUT IT WAS HIGHER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE. WE HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS OVER AT THE CENTER WITH VETERAN'S DAY COMING UP THIS WEEK, IT BECOMES POIGNANT FINDINGS.

TED SIMONS: IT DOES INDEED. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

VINCENT WEB: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

Vincent Webb, researcher/professor of practice, ASU

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

An armed forces bugler playing the trumpet in front of the United States Capitol building.
airs May 26

National Memorial Day Concert 2024

Graphic for the AZPBS kids LEARN! Writing Contest with a child sitting in a chair writing on a table and text reading: The Ultimate Field Trip
May 26

Submit your entry for the 2024 Writing Contest

Rachel Khong
May 29

Join us for PBS Books Readers Club!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: