Suicides triple in Lyon County

The number of recorded suicides in Lyon County in 2009 has tripled compared to 2008, amounting to 27 so far this year, Sheriff Allen Veil said.

Although it's the largest increase Veil has seen since joining the Lyon County Sheriff's Office in 1982, he said authorities have detected no trends among the suicides.

"There's no big thing that jumps out and says this is what's been behind all of these," said Veil, adding the suicides happened throughout the county and affected various age groups, ethnicities and financial backgrounds, with about a fifth of the cases involving terminally ill patients. "It's so many different things that are going on, from what we're seeing."

Cheryl Bowles, the director of the Fallon and Fernley Mental Health Clinics, said resources for local outreach centers have been strained in Lyon County, especially after the Fernley and Dayton outreach clinics were closed last year amid state budget cuts.

The Fernley office reopened in September this year, Bowles said, but staffing is still low. The two clinicians at the Fallon office and the one in Fernley are able to handle 75 case each, which has led to a waiting list of more than 150 people that can last about two months.

Bowles said they are planning to hire one more mental health clinician to help alleviate the waiting time.

"It appears a lot of the individuals committing suicide are not involved in any services," Bowles said. "So I don't know if it's a need for education for the availability of community resources."

Nevada had the fourth highest suicide rate in the United States in 2006 at 19.5 deaths per 100,000 people, following Wyoming, Alaska and Montana, according to the latest data from the American Association of Suicidology.

Earlier this month, detailed suicide rates in all U.S. counties by using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau. The report used suicide statistics for all 3,102 U.S. counties from 1979 to 2006.

Seven of Nevada's 17 counties ranked in the top 50 suicide rates, with Nye County ranking the highest at No. 8 with 34.9 suicides per 100,000 people followed by White Pine County at No. 9 at 33.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Lyon County ranked No. 23 with 29.1 suicides per 100,000 people. Carson City was ranked No. 32 at 27.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

Carson City Coroner Ruth Rhines said she has seen no notable increase in the number of suicides this year, which is currently seven for 2009, down from 12 in 2008.

Rhines said two of the seven cases could be attributed to a job loss, but added she could draw no correlation to the sour economy. Veil said the suicides in Lyon County, despite unemployment nearing 16 percent there, could not be connected to the recession, either.

Lanny Berman, the executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, said while the Great Depression resulted in an increase in the national suicide rate - which currently stands at 11.1 per 100,000 people - subsequent economic downturns did not produce similar effects.

Moreover, a compiled set of national suicide data for 2008 won't be available until 2011, Berman said.

"You could have a cluster in the county ... and have nothing to do with any economic issue," he said.

Misty Allen, the suicide prevention coordinator for the State of Nevada, said the recession could put more pressure on vulnerable people, but it's still too early to tell if it is having a discernible effect on Nevada's suicide rate.

She adds that cut backs in state outreach programs are occurring at a difficult time for many, which means more Nevada need to become educated in how to prevent suicides.

"We need to step up and get creative with our support because the traditional support systems are suffering just as much," Allen said.


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