Nevada data indicates sharp increase in suicides among two groups: 18 to 24, and over 65
Suicides increased by 41.9% among 18-24-year-olds from 2018 to 2021. (Getty Images)
Note: This story mentions suicide. Suicide is preventable. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 988. Nevadans can reach services by calling, texting, or chatting online. To find mental and behavioral health services in Nevada, visit:behavioralhealthvn.org
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 8-17, 18-24, and 25-44 years of age — and more people died in Nevada by suicide (603) than by homicides (217) or transportation deaths (380) combined in 2020, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
While suicide rates for most age groups decreased in Nevada in 2021, suicide rates increased for those aged 18 to 24 after two years of decline, according to coroner’s office data analyzed by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Suicide Prevention.
“Every suicide is unique and every suicide has different contributing factors, but when we see an overall [trend] we try to see what might be going on,” said Richard Egan, the training and outreach facilitator for the Office of Suicide Prevention.
The increase in suicides isn’t unique to Nevada — provisional data from the CDC show that the number and rate of suicides in the United States increased by 4% from 2020-2021 after two consecutive years of decline in 2019 and 2020, but increased more in some populations – younger people, and older people populations.
“We overall went down in the year of the pandemic, but history tells us that after a major incident like the Great Depression, Katrina, or fires in California — in the aftermath of those incidents the suicides go up. So what we’re seeing is the suicides go up in 2021 and 2022,” Egan said.
While Nevada historically has ranked among the 10 states with the most suicide deaths, the state’s rank dipped to 13th for 2020.
Preliminary 2021 data Egan collected from the Clark and Washoe counties coroners’ offices show suicides among people 17 years old and under declined 16.7% from 2018 to 2021, and people ages 25 to 64 had a 10.2% decrease in those years.
But suicides increased by 41.9% for 18-24-year-olds, and by 19.8% among people 65 and over.
Egan said that for the younger generation, there’s more access to prevention programming in schools since Nevada passed legislation in 2019 that mandated teaching suicide prevention courses to students, teachers, and administrators for middle and high schools.
The number one resiliency factor for suicide is connectedness, being connected to others, being connected to peers, being connected to family, being connected to social groups... – Richard Egan, Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention
The number one resiliency factor for suicide is connectedness, being connected to others, being connected to peers, being connected to family, being connected to social groups...
– Richard Egan, Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention
Suicide is a multi-faceted and nuanced public health crisis with no single cause — contributing factors include mental health conditions, stressful life events like a divorce, death, or foreclosure, and access to lethal means including firearms and drugs. Warning signs include when a person talks about being a burden to others, isolating themselves from family and friends, giving away belongings, and a loss of interest, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
But there are protective factors like access to mental health care, limiting access to lethal means, and connections to family and community support.
For the two age groups that saw an increase in suicide rates in Nevada, Egan notes that they tend to be more isolated than the younger groups that are in school (17 years old and under) and the slightly older group (people ages 25 to 64) that tend to go to work and have families.
“Let’s go back to 2011, the CDC did a report on the number one resiliency factor for suicide is connectedness, being connected to others, being connected to peers, being connected to family, being connected to social groups like church or bowling teams and/or sports teams,” Egan said.
The 18 to 24-year-olds and people 65 and over tend to have fewer social connections. Not everyone in that 18-24 age group goes to college (where many suicide prevention programs are held) and many people 65 and over struggle with isolation, Egan said.
Nationally over the last decade, young people have had the fastest-growing rate of firearm suicides in comparison to other age demographics, according to a 2022 report by the nonprofit Everytown, which advocates for gun control and against gun violence.
Firearms are one of the most lethal methods for suicide attempts with many taking place within 10 minutes of suicidal thoughts. Nevada’s suicide firearm rate is higher than the national average. Nationally, firearms are used in over 52% of suicides, but in Nevada, firearms are used in nearly 62% of suicides, according to the CDC data.
In the current legislative session, a state Senate bill would criminalize unsafe storage of a firearm, require a licensed gun dealer to provide a locking device for the gun, and require the HHS to develop and implement a safe firearm education program for the state. The bill would also require the Nevada Department of Education to oversee each school district’s plan for addressing active shootings, providing disaster behavioral health related to a crisis, emergency, or suicide, and training on how to respond to suicides at schools.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 14.
The state Office of Suicide Prevention already has a program that delivers free locks and safes for firearms to gun owners. But the proposed legislation would help scale the program up to reach more people, Egan said.
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