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Fairfield County Suicide Rates Hit 20-Year High

WESTPORT, Conn. – No matter where the blame goes – the bad economy, deep depression or staggering social pressures – suicides in Connecticut are at a 20-year high and the rate in Fairfield County ranks third-highest, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Connecticut.

At a rate of more than one per day, 371 suicides were reported throughout the state in 2011. Of those, 288 were males and 83 were females. It was the most cases reported since 1991, when the office recorded 362 suicides in the state.

“We are living in a part of the country that’s more stressful, faster-paced and with high expectations,” said Stephanie Haen, director of behavioral health for Family Centers of Greenwich, an organization that looks at suicide from a preventative angle.

In Westport, three suicides were recorded during the 2009-10 fiscal year, according to the Westport Police Department's annual report. During that same time, there were 28 attempted or threatened suicides. These numbers were up from zero suicides and 16 attempted or threatened suicides during the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The annual report for the 2010-11 year has not yet been completed.

A breakdown of the medical examiner’s report for the state shows the highest number of suicides, 71, was among men ages 40 to 49. The second highest, 68, was among men ages 50 to 59.

Fairfield County saw the third-highest suicide rate statewide last year, with 64 out of a population of 918,714, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. New Haven County had the most, with 99 suicides reported out of 862,989 people, followed by Hartford County, with 87 suicides out of 894,478.

Looking nationwide, however, Connecticut was ranked 47th out of all states in 2009, at a rate of nine per 100,000. But, the state had the second-highest rate of reported suicide attempts in the nation, according to a report released in October by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Help is available in Westport and throughout the county. The Southern Connecticut Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention runs programs in the area, holds fundraisers for scientific research into the causes of suicide and advocates for public policies to enact prevention programs.

In Westport, Positive Directions , a center for prevention and recovery, offers prevention programs and treatment services for mental health, and addictive behaviors.

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