Suicide rate rising in city

Officials say warning signs include a withdrawal from society and increase in drug and alcohol use.

October 21, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

DOWNTOWN — The number of people who killed themselves in Burbank this year has more than doubled compared with last year, leaving experts to speculate whether the economic slowdown has played a role.

Thirteen people committed suicide since January, compared with six in 2008, according to records released by the Burbank Police Department.

Calls for help from victims, family and friends have also increased, Burbank Police Sgt. Robert Quesada said.

The calls for help come as a new federal government study showed more than 8 million Americans seriously consider suicide each year. About 32,000 suicides occur annually in the United States, according to figures released last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Local authorities expressed concerns about the general uptick and hopes that their release of the records, which are seldom publicized, would help raise awareness so those close to potential victims would know where to turn for help, Quesada said.


“If they’re talking about it, it means they’re actually thinking about it,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know this. They think victims are just laughing and joking. But these are [more] often people in need of help.”

Suicides across the city have been in line with national statistics that show women are twice as likely to attempt suicide, but that men are twice as likely to follow through. Of the 13 cases confirmed through Friday, 10 involved men, six of whom used handguns.

Two victims died by hanging, one drowned, one overdosed, one leaped from a tall structure and one jumped in front of a moving train. Another died from self-inflicted wounds, according to police reports.

At least four of the cases involved people killing themselves in public places, including a gun range, arms retailer, train station and downtown hotel.

“It could be, ‘I am going to show you how bad it is.’ Or a feeling of ‘Geez, maybe they’ll finally take notice if I make a statement this way,’” said Bruce Spring, an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Victims ranged in ages from their 20s to 80s. The oldest was 87.

Because the majority of those who took their own lives in Burbank were between 30 and 50 years old, experts pointed to the economic downturn and high divorce rates as potential factors.

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