Alaska’s suicide rate is the highest since at least 1996, according to new figures from the state health department.
On Wednesday morning, the Health Analytics and Vital Records Section of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services released its updated annual report. The report, which runs from 2006 through 2015 (the latest year for which full data are available) shows suicide is the No. 5 leading cause of death in Alaska. Cancer is No. 1.
Alaska recorded 200 suicides in 2015, a rate of 27.1 per 100,000 residents. The U.S. national rate is 13.3 per 100,000. Alaska has the second-highest suicide rate in the country, behind only Wyoming, which had a rate of 28.0 per 100,000 residents.
Past reports by DHSS show Alaska had a suicide rate of 22.2 per 100,000 in 1996. That figure rose to 22.7 by 1998 before dropping significantly. The rate peaked at 23.4 in 2004, and again at 24.3 in 2008 before falling. The figure in 2014 was 22.6 per 100,000.
According to the report, most suicides took place with a gun: 98 men and 24 women used a firearm.
Firearms also featured in the state’s No. 10 cause of death, homicide. Sixty-two Alaskans were murdered in 2015, and the rate of 8.4 homicide deaths per 100,000 residents was the highest since at least 2006, the earliest year published in the report.
As a result, homicide displaced influenza and pneumonia in the No. 10 spot.
Following cancer as the leading cause of Alaskan death (130.4 per 100,000) were heart disease (113.2), accidents (52.2), respiratory diseases (27.7), suicide, stroke (24.1), diabetes (19), liver disease (15.3), Alzheimer’s disease (9.1) and homicide.
According to the report, firearms killed 176 Alaskans in 2015, alcohol killed 160 and drugs killed 126.
Editor’s note: Suicide is a serious topic. If you’re in trouble and need help, please talk to someone. If you don’t think you can talk to someone in person, call the Alaska CARELINE at 1-877-266-HELP, or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Alaska Community Mental Health Centers, or juneausuicideprevention.org.