INDIANAPOLIS — The suicide rate among Indiana's middle-aged population surged nearly 54 percent from 1999 to 2010, an increase nearly twice the national rate and one of the highest among the 50 states, according to a federal report released Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report shows Indiana's suicide rate among people ages 35 to 64 rose from about 12.7 suicides per 100,000 residents in 1999 to about 19.5 suicides per 100,000 in 2010. Indiana's nearly 54 percent suicide rate increase over that time frame was the nation's eighth-highest.
Over the same period, the national suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed 28 percent.
The CDC report spans 11 years that include the recession and the mortgage crisis, but the report doesn't explore whether the economic upheaval or other factors may have driven more middle-aged people to take their own lives. In 1999, 289 middle-aged Indiana residents killed themselves, but that rose to 506 suicides in 2010.
Thomas Simon, a researcher with the CDC's Injury Prevention Center, said the data for the report was based on death certificates that don't include information on economic stresses, substance abuse or mental health problems, which makes it difficult to say with certainty what's driving the suicide rate increases.
But Simon, who co-authored the report, said some of the possible factors behind the increases could include the baby boomer generation's historically higher suicide rate, rising substance abuse — particularly prescription drug abuse and overdoses — and the impact of economic turmoil and uncertainties.
"We saw the burst of the dot.com bubble in 2001, we saw the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 and the instability associated with those incidents, so that may be potentially contributing to the increase," Simon said.
He said most suicide research and prevention efforts have focused on youths and older adults and the report underscores the need for addressing suicide-prevention strategies among middle-aged Americans. Between 1999 and 2010, Simon said, suicide rose from the eighth-leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth-leading cause, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.
Alice Jordan-Miles, director of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition, said state and federal budget cuts over the years may have played a role in the increase by reducing the availability of mental health care for many people who might not be able to afford it.
"There are still a lot of people whose families are facing budgetary constraints," she said. "If they have a session that costs $25, $35 an hour versus putting food on their table, what do you think they're going to do?" she said. "It's all about access to mental health care."
Jordan-Miles also said that the stigma of mental health persists for all age groups, keeping some people from seeking help when they need it.
She said the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition in partnership with state officials recently released a new statewide suicide prevention plan — the first such update since 2001. She said a daylong summit in September will focus on how to implement the plan. That Indianapolis event will kick of National Suicide Prevention Week in the state.