Suicide study finds regional differences in suicidal thoughts, actions


(CBS/AP) Suicide is in the spotlight, thanks to the first state-by-state survey of suicide that shows not only how many people have tried to kill themselves but also how many have had thoughts about or made plans to commit suicide.

And it showed suicidal thoughts and actions are a lot more common than you might think

PICTURES: Suicide, U.S.A: 13 states with most suicidal thoughts

More than 8 million Americans have contemplated suicide this past year, the CDC study found.

"This report highlights that we have opportunities to intervene before someone dies by suicide," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, said in a statement. "We can identify risks and take action before a suicide attempt takes place."

Previous research has shown 35,000 Americans commit suicide each year, and researchers sought to identify which groups were most vulnerable to take their own lives.

The CDC study - published Oct. 21 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report - is based on confidential surveys of more than 90,000 U.S. adults in 2008 and 2009. Participants did not include those in the military, homeless people, or those hospitalized with psychiatric problems.

Among factors the study examined, region appeared to play a role in suicidal thoughts and attempts. The study is the first state-by-state look at suicide before it happens. Previous government research with state-by-state data was on suicide deaths, with the highest rates in Western states like Alaska, New Mexico, Wyoming and Montana.

Which state had the most plans for suicide, and suicide attempts? Rhode Island topped those lists, with 1 in 36 residents saying they had planned a suicide, and 1 in 67 saying they had tried to take their own life. Delaware had the least suicide attempts, with 1 in 1,000 reporting attempts.

Overall, the Midwest and West had significantly higher rates of contemplating suicide than the South and Northeast.

Georgians were least likely to have suicidal thoughts , with only 1 in 50 saying they've contemplated suicide, and also were the lowest in planning a suicide (1 in 1,000).

Why different rates across states? The researchers aren't exactly sure, but said state demographics might play a role.

Adolescents and females were more likely to think about suicide, while older males had the highest rates of actual suicide deaths, said study author Dr. Alex Crosby, a CDC epidemiologist. That suggests a state with a lot of young people and women might look high in suicide thoughts and planning, but not as high in deaths.

It's also possible that suicide planners in sparsely populated Western states have fewer friends or health professionals around to save them, said Matthew Nock, a Harvard University psychology professor who has researched suicide patterns.

Which states' residents had the most suicidal thoughts?

Keep clicking to find out...