Idaho sees fewer suicides in 2016

Idaho’s suicide rate dropped a bit in 2016 compared to 2015, but the state still has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation.

According to the 2016 numbers on causes of death, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in late December, 351 people killed themselves in Idaho in 2016, for a rate of 20.9 suicides per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the eighth-highest rate in the country — Alaska had the highest suicide rate at 26 per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Oklahoma. There were 44,965 recorded suicides in 2016, for a national rate of 13.9 per 100,000 people.

Idaho’s 2016 numbers mark a decline from 359 suicides in 2015. That year, Idaho had the fifth-highest suicide rate in the country, at 21.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, behind only Alaska, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico.

Idaho’s slight decline in suicides in 2016 came in spite of a national increase — in 2015, there were 44,193 suicides nationwide, 772 fewer than 2016, for a rate that year of 13.7 per 100,000 people.

The CDC only makes numbers available for the state’s biggest counties, and those show a significant increase in suicides in Ada County from 2015 to 2016, from 79 to 103, but a drop in most of the others, including Bonneville County. There were 33 suicides in Bonneville and 13 in Bingham County in 2015. In 2016 there were 18 in Bonneville and 13 in Bingham. The number of suicides dropped in Bannock, Canyon and Kootenai counties and stayed the same in Twin Falls County.

About 60 percent of Idaho suicides in both years were done with a firearm, compared to about 50 percent nationally.

Alaska plus a bloc of non-coastal western states including Idaho have led the nation in suicide rates for years, with theories as to why including rural poverty and isolation, high rates of gun ownership and a culture of individualism and self-reliance that discourages people from seeking help.

The Idaho Legislature created an Office of Suicide Prevention in 2016, allocating almost $1 million for efforts such as prevention programs in schools, a statewide awareness campaign and to fund the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757.