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New study shows Arkansas's suicide rate up 41% since 2000

A new study shows the suicide rate in Arkansas rose by 41% between 2000 and 2018. A jump that surpassed the national increase of 37%.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — A new report by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement highlights a study that shows the suicide rate in Arkansas rose by 41% between 2000 and 2018.

Dr. Joe Thompson, President and CEO of Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, described the statistics as concerning especially with an ongoing pandemic. 

"We're in a new environment with a threat that is invisible, that is scary and that is real," he said. 

A new study by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center shows the suicide rate in Arkansas rose by 41% between 2000 and 2018. 

A jump that, according to Thompson, surpassed the national increase of 37%. 

"Arkansans in general have poorer health, have more stressors because of economics and the COVID period has added onto those," he said. 

Recently, Arkansas Center for Health Improvement coupled that data with a second study that looked at suicidal ideation. 

The proportion of people who thought about taking their lives rose from 3% to over 16% during the COVID epidemic, according to Thompson.

"Those two things together, I think, are a warning call for us to watch out for individuals that are having problems with the stresses that COVID brings on," he said. 

The numbers were broken down into age, ethnicity and socio-economic status with an alarming increase of 95% in children ages 10 to 14.

Thompson believes that jump stems from technology, the presence and dependence of social media and isolation.

"Those three things coming together, with some of our teens that may have had a tendency toward depression or other mental health concerns, those are a cause that we need to watch out carefully for," he said. 

These feelings of social isolations and loneliness have always been public health concerns, but Thompson said, when you pair it with the pandemic the worry is heightened. 

"The most important thing is to recognize that the COVID time here is stressful and just being able to recognize, this is stressful, isolation is difficult and ask 'how are you doing?'" he said.

Thompson said that simple question exemplifies that no one is alone. 

"We're gonna be in this new period for a long time and we need to learn how to support each other, so we can get through it as best we can," he said. 

Remember, if you or someone you know is in crisis there are people out there who can help. 

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-8255.


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