Department of Health: Hawaii Has 7th Lowest Suicide Rate in the Nation

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BY NANCY KERN – HONOLULU, HAWAII – Hawai‘i will recognize the 36th annual national Suicide Prevention Week, September 5 – 11, 2010, with the theme:” Families, Community Systems and Suicide.” Starting Sunday, Sept. 5, communities in Hawai‘i and across the United States are collaborating to host events to spread awareness of suicide prevention and the resources available to support this important effort.

A suicidal death is often most difficult for friends, family, and loved ones to fathom. Oftentimes there are warning signs, in the form of depression or a mental illness, and other times suicide seems to strike seemingly out of nowhere. Regardless of the motivation behind it, suicide is the most extreme case of self-harm, and for those who are contemplating such an act, know someone who might be at risk for suicide, or for those left behind; there are numerous resources available in Hawai‘i.


To promote these services and provide awareness to the nation and individual states, National Suicide Prevention Week is held from September 5-11, marking the days leading up to and after National Suicide Prevention Day, which will be commemorated on Friday, September 10, 2010.

Hawai‘i state data on suicides:

  • Hawai‘i ranks 43rd nationally in its rate of suicide deaths (or has the 7th lowest rate of suicide in the nation).
  • Suicide was the single leading cause of fatal injuries in Hawai‘i over the 2005-2009 time period, and there was a significantly increasing trend in the annual rate of suicide among Hawai‘i residents.
  • The most consistent trends were seen for males and residents 55 years of age and older.
  • Victim age was widely distributed, although almost all (95%) were 19 years or older.
  • Elderly residents (85 years and older) and those in the 40 to 54 year age range had the highest fatality rates.
  • Male victims outnumbered females by approximately 3-to-1.
  • Fatality rates among O‘ahu residents were 38% lower, compared to Neighbor Island residents; rates across Neighbor Island counties were similar.
  • The most common mechanism was by hanging or suffocation (48%), followed by firearm use (20%), poisonings (13%), and jumps from high places (12%).
  • According to 2009 YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Survey) data, Hawai‘i high school students had the highest self-reported prevalence of considering suicide (19%), the highest for making a plan (16%), the highest for attempting (13%), and the 4th highest prevalence for being treated for a self-inflicted injury (4.5%) in the country.  (Data was available from 40 to 41 states for these comparisons; average prevalences were 15%, 12%, 8% and 3%, respectively.).
  • Among Hawai‘i students the prevalence of these risk factors was generally higher among female students, although there was an increasing trend in the self-reported attempts among males from 2003 to 2009 (from 9% to 12%), compared to a decreasing trend among females over that time (from 17% to 14%).

National data on suicides:

  • Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States with one suicide occurring on average every 15.2 minutes.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 15- to 24-years-olds.
  • The elderly make up 12.6% of the population, but comprise 15.7% of all suicides.
  • Approximately 864,950 Americans attempt suicide each year.
  • It is estimated that five million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves.
  • Every year in the United States, more than 17,000 men and women kill themselves with a gun, two-thirds more than the number who use a gun to kill another person.
  • An estimated 4.6 million Americans are survivors of the suicide of a friend, family member, or loved one.

For more information, on National Suicide Prevention Week, please contact Nancy Kern at the Injury Prevention and Control Program of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health at: (808) 733-9238 or