Alaskan suicide rates rise for 4th year

Alaska's suicide rate rose for the fourth year in a row in 2008, according to preliminary numbers from the state Bureau of Vital Statistics.

The statewide rate of 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people is the highest in more than a decade and a 25 percent increase since 2005, according to the Bureau's early figures.

"We are seeing an increase. What it's related to, it's anyone's guess," said James Gallanos, the state Division of Behavioral Health's lead suicide prevention coordinator.

It's a mistake to oversimplify the potential causes of suicide, Gallanos said, but he wonders if one element is the wounded economy. "The stresses caused due to the high price of fuel and food in rural Alaska may be a contributing factor."

New region-by-region suicide numbers for 2008 weren't available late Wednesday, but the suicide rate in rural Alaska has far surpassed the cities for decades. Alaska Natives, especially young people, are particularly at risk.

The average rate over the past 10 years for remote villages and towns in Northwest Alaska, for example, is more than three times the statewide average.

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