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Greenwich Suicide Rates on the Rise

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

About 371 suicides were reported in Connecticut in 2011 – a rate of more than one per day. 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. “The folks who lost their jobs and stocks in 2008, and now may be in that second wave where they’ve blown through their savings and still can’t find a job, are dealing with long-term depression and anxiety that definitely contributes to the rate of suicide.”

Fairfield County saw the third most suicides last year, with 64 out of a population of about 918,714, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. New Haven County had the most, with 99 suicides reported out of about 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. Though Connecticut may be low in completed suicides, it 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.

During this time, 1 percent of Connecticut residents surveyed said they had attempted suicide, compared with the national average of 0.5 percent. The highest rate – 1.5 percent – was in Rhode Island.

“Whether completed or not, it’s a big deal,” says Lt. Kraig Gray, spokesman for the Greenwich Police Department. “Those people who only attempt today may complete tomorrow. They happen plenty and among all groups of people.”

Of those attempts in Connecticut during 2008 and 2009, 1.3 percent was female and 0.6 percent was male. In addition, 3 percent was Hispanic; 0.3 percent was black; and 0.8 was white.

For kids, Haen says Family Centers does work to help manage online bullying behavior, the stress to succeed and the value of failure. “Children right now have packed schedules, no down time and performance stressors, and it’s too much,” she said. Parents also need to learn how to scale back on outside pressures to keep up appearances, Haen said.

“The economy may have changed, but our society hasn’t. In this area you still see kids expecting to have their Coach bags, Ugg boots, and Louis Vuitton accessories, and parents feel they need to provide that,” said Haen.

In Greenwich, Gray said the department became more proactive a few years ago to combat the dangers of stress. Police developed partnerships with first responders and mental health professionals, such as Dr. Paul Turner , a psychologist for Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services who specializes in crisis house calls. “We take all suicidal ideations seriously. It happens,” said Gray.

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