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Suicides increase statewide and spike in Plymouth County

Suicides increase statewide and spike in Plymouth County

By Chris Burrell

The Patriot Ledger

Posted Feb 02, 2012 @ 02:49 AM

Whether they’re blamed on despair over the economy, depression or drug problems, suicides in the state are on the rise and spiked sharply in Plymouth County and some South Shore towns.

Scituate has lost 12 residents to suicide in the last three years, and in Marshfield, 13 people have taken their own lives in the last four years, according to the latest suicide data released from the state Department of Public Health and documents obtained by The Patriot Ledger.

The suicide prevention group Samaritans reported that their crisis calls are also up significantly in the state.

“More than one person a day in the commonwealth died by their own hand,” said Roberta Hurtig, executive director of the Samaritans of Greater Boston. “The last few years have been tough economically, and we’re seeing men and women veterans with high increases in post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The most recent data from the Department of Public Health’s surveillance of violent deaths counted 531 suicides statewide in 2009, up from 503 the year before, and an overall rise in the rate from 7.7 to 8.1 suicides per 100,000 residents. That’s still far lower than the national suicide rate of 11.2.

The report said that suicides continued to increase into 2010 across Massachusetts but that precise data won’t be available until next year.

The number of suicides in Plymouth County jumped from 39 in 2008 to 49 in 2009, a 25 percent increase that also pushed its suicide rate to 9.6 per 100,000 residents, significantly higher than Norfolk County’s rate of 6.2 and Suffolk County’s rate of 6.4.

Eight people took their own lives in Plymouth in 2009, up from five the year before.

In Quincy, 91 people committed suicide from 2000 to 2009. That was higher than in similar-sized cities such as Lynn, which had 64 suicides in the same period. Somerville had 49 suicides in that decade and Newton recorded 38.

Suicides in Marshfield and Scituate rose from 2008 to 2011, according to state data and Ledger research.

There were three suicides in Marshfield in 2008, four in 2009, five in 2010 and one last year.

A seaside community of 18,000 people, Scituate had three suicides in 2009, four in 2010 and five last year.

One of the Scituate victims was Beth Guivens’ 37-year-old brother, who took his life Jan. 23, 2011.

Hearing the latest statistics from the state, Guivens, who lives in Brockton, said, “It’s terribly awful to hear. The economy had to play a big part in it, people who feel they can’t take care of their families and people who feel they can’t get help.”

Last year in the wake of the Scituate suicides, mental health professionals on the South Shore flagged an array of shortages in the region from psychiatric hospital beds and psychiatrists who accept a wide range of health insurance plans to the absence of a teaching hospital that would anchor a network of mental health care services and training.

“The South Shore does have some unique problems,” Dr. Donald Condie, a child psychiatrist and the president of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, told The Ledger last summer.

The closing of Taunton State Hospital later this year will make it harder for people in the region to get psychiatric care, Guivens said.

Most of the suicides in the state – 51 percent – were committed by residents between the ages of 35 and 54, according to the report. Suicides among males were more than triple the rate for women. In 2009, there were 421 suicides among males, compared with 109 among females.

The public health report found that 55 percent of suicide victims had mental health problems, 29 percent had a history of substance or alcohol abuse and 22 percent had job or financial problems.

A study released last year by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that suicide rates for adults of working age rose during economic recessions.

Christopher Burrell may be reached at

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