A majority of Hoosiers who committed suicide showed signs of depression and used a firearm to kill themselves, according to early results of a pilot program studying six Indiana counties.
About 45 percent of the people committing suicide had been diagnosed with depression, and about 55 percent used firearms, officials with the Indiana Violent Death Reporting System said during a meeting Friday in Indianapolis.
But a closer estimate on a circumstance leading to suicide may place the rate at 65 percent. That would take into account county reports that didn’t list circumstances surrounding the death such as mental health, alcohol problems or substance abuse, said Rachel Kenny, principal investigator and epidemiologist with the state Division of Trauma and Injury Prevention.
The areas studied were Allen, Lake, Madison, Marion, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties based on coroner and law enforcement reports of suicides and homicides.
The program is to expand statewide but the preliminary results from 2015 are awaiting data checks by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kenny said the pilot program also sets up staff and the process to collect data for the expansion.
“It’s all statistics for us to use when we go out and do our talks to organizations,” said Scott Sefton, chief deputy coroner in Lake County.
His office, which assisted in reporting data to the state, also uses data from the Drug Enforcement Agency when it discusses crime trends with public groups and police agencies.
In addition to the 55 percent of the 402 suicides in the studied counties using firearms, 25 percent died by hanging or suffocation and about 15 percent by poisoning. Less than 5 percent used a motor vehicle.
Of 150 reports listing mental health diagnoses as a contributing cause, the most common was depression, with 105 reports, followed by bipolar disorder; schizophrenia; and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The report also looked at physical and mental stress. More than 25 percent had physical health problems in the cases where one circumstance was listed.
“It’s definitely one of the highest circumstances we see in suicides,” Kenny said.
Problems with physical health included issues affecting the quality of one’s life, a terminal diagnosis or back pain, Kenny said.
Lori Gerdt, a mental health counselor in Greenfield, asked for more information about the nature of physical health problems.
“I’ve been working with the physical therapy rehab department, and I’m getting familiar with their research about the correlation between lower back pain and depression, so I’d be interested to see if in physical health, there’s also depression,” Gerdt said.
Problems with physical health were followed closely by inter-personal violence issues such as a fight with a spouse. In those instances, those committing suicide did so 12 percent of the time during the argument; 38 percent of the time the suicide was committed within 24 hours of an argument.
“It’s another way to say: ‘H ow quickly do we need to intervene to get prevention for these deaths?’” said Kenny.
The study also looked at 313 homicides in the six counties. Coroner reports had been turned in from all counties, but law enforcement figures were low while the state awaits information from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
Firearms were used in 80 percent of the homicides; blunt instruments were involved with 6 percent of the homicides. An argument was the leading cause for the homicides reported to the state. Drug involvement was cited in less than 20 percent of the homicides.
The report is to be published soon on the Indiana State Department of Health website.