Suicide rates in California: How improved surveillance can save people’s lives
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Although the Golden State has its fair share of sun for its residents to enjoy, there are some who still live under a stormy cloud of emotional baggage. These individuals may have lived with ongoing depression for some time or experienced an acute, traumatic event. Regardless of how the sadness invades their thoughts, emotions and behaviors, a substantial number of Californians are haunted by suicidal ideation that could end up cutting their lives short. While it is a universal issue, some researchers have attempted to frame suicide in a more relatable perspective for those in this region.

According to a 2014 report by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) in collaboration with RAND Health, the state’s landscape of suicidal trends paint a varied and complex picture of its current range of mental health services as well as the various implications for improvement. Authors Rajeev Ramchand and Amariah Becker said, “…we present the results from RAND’s analysis of suicide fatalities in the state of California to provide necessary context for evaluating CalMHSA’s investment in suicide prevention activities in the State.”

The data revealed the frequency of suicide in California was consistently lower than the nation’s overall rate. Between 1999 and 2009, these specific deaths were estimated at 9.4 per 100,000 individuals while the national average is closer to 11.1 per 100,000.

The most pertinent findings from the report highlight specific demographics with the most risk for an intentional death. For example, adults between the ages of 20 and 59 comprised a dominating 71 percent of California’s suicides. Of this same population, three-quarters of all suicides were committed by men in 2009, which was four times higher than the incidence in women that year. Also, white Californians had a slightly, yet consistently higher chance of self-inflicted death than other ethnicities.

Another notable factor related to these deaths was geographical location. California is divided into three distinct areas: southern, central and superior. When comparing the rates of suicide between 2008 and 2010, the superior region dealt with the highest degree of deaths with approximately 20 per every 100,000 while the southern county of Los Angeles was the lowest at about 8 per 100,000. However, when taking into account the sheer amount of suicides, the Los Angeles area experienced the most with 2,358 deaths compared to the superior region’s 660 deaths.

As the authors explained, the informative report aimed to showcase which conceptual and literal areas of mental health care have underserved their respective communities. As such, future treatment should focus on addressing more needs of adults and men. In addition, a higher degree of individualized treatment should be established in rural areas like superior California and broader treatment should become more available in the condensed metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and other major cities.

Furthermore, conducting a systematic review of this scale uncovered certain limitations of measuring mental health problems in the modern age. The current process of collecting, verifying and preparing statewide data results in a two- to three-year lag of up-to-date information. Of the many voices who have called for improved research surveillance, one 2009 study outlined the major obstacles obstructing data collection, including:

  • A lack of multiple data sources to monitor and track the full spectrum of the population’s mental health.
  • An untapped potential for linking data across sources and time.
  • A need for increased regulation for important research elements, such as privacy and security.
  • A need for a standardized set of indicators that takes into account health determinants, the severity of symptoms and the use of health care services.

The California Mental Health Services Authority consists of a collection of aligned county governments, all of which are committed to improving mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. Together with RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, the two organizations seek to better major health care systems. By providing California policymakers with objective and empirical evidence, these groups hope to influence governmental actions regarding mental health with informed decision making.

In order to improve mental health services, the surveillance of how people respond to currently administered treatments is imperative. Sovereign Health Group is a leading provider of the most supported and innovative health care practices available, spanning the realms of mental health and substance addiction. If you or a loved one suffers from depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, do not hesitate to call Sovereign Health for help immediately. Contact us online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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