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Increase in suicides in two age groups in Pima County cause concern at health department

Posted at 6:22 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 08:22:25-05

TUCSON, Ariz. - This year there have been two spikes in suicides that have caused concern at the Pima County Health Department.

The first spike began in early March, lasting four weeks. The second spike happened in October and continued throughout November, according to a health alert issued by the Pima County Health Department.

“There’s speculation. I wouldn’t say that there is known casualty for why that happen but we do have speculation for what we believe, and some of it is due to the COVID pandemic especially with the latest spike," said Dr. Theresa Cullen, the director for the county health department.

In the health alert, which was issued back in November, the health department also highlighted another concern. The department found there had been a percentage increase of suicides in two different age groups.

In 2020, there has been a 67% increase in suicides among minors ages 12 to 17. There has been a 56% increase in suicides among adults ages 50-59, according to the alert.

“We have these two areas, these two age areas that we are extremely concerned about," said Dr. Cullen.

As of November 20, 2020 there had been 204 confirmed suicides in Pima County, In 2019, there were a total of 253 confirmed suicides, according to the alert.

Dr. Cullen said that although the number of confirmed suicides is lower so far this year, the spikes and percent increases in certain ages were enough to cause concern.

At NAMI Southern Arizona, Christina Bickelmann, the executive director for the organization, told KGUN9 they've also had an increase in the numbers of callers in need.

“In the last two months it’s probably started to tick up a lot in how many calls we’re getting," she said.

Bickelmann added prior to the pandemic, NAMI rarely received callers in crisis. She said that has definitely changed now.

Both Dr. Cullen said the main reason behind releasing the alert on suicides is to encourage anyone struggling to reach out for help.

If you or someone you know if struggling with thoughts of self harm, please call 800-273-8255.