Suicide rate in county continues to drop

The suicide rate in Santa Clara County dropped for the third consecutive year in 2017, federal health officials reported.

The decline in county suicides for the most recent reported year, to 6.95 suicides per 100,000 people in 2017, is in contrast to national suicide rates, which increased for the third straight year, according to the annual report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Santa Clara County, the suicide rate in 2016 was 6.98 per 100,000 people; in 2015, the rate was 7.77 deaths per 100,000 people. The rates of suicide deaths are nearly half the national rate, the CDC reported.

Across the U.S., the suicide rate rose in 2017 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people, compared to 13 in 2016 and 13.3 in in 2015.

The California rate, while also lower than the national rate, remains higher than in Santa Clara County, and has increased since 2015. The 2017 California suicide rate was 10.5 suicides per 100,000 people; the same rate of 10.5 per 100,000 people in 2016 and 10.3 per 100,000 people in 2015, according to the county.

Suicide rates have been rising in nearly every state, according to the federal agency.

In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans age 10 or older died by suicide. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and is one of just three leading causes that are on the rise.

In 2017, a CDC report found that from 2003 to 2015, Morgan Hill had the second-highest youth suicide rate among cities in Santa Clara County, just behind Palo Alto. During that period, the “crude suicide rate” among youth in Morgan Hill was 12.7 percent, according to the 2017 report. 

Local public health professionals noted that the 2017 CDC report prompted new and/or strengthened community partnerships to address youth suicide. A series of meetings with community members, educators, law enforcement and behavioral health experts have been held, and local activities took place in Palo Alto and Morgan Hill. County-wide activities included expanding school linked services, implementing a suicide prevention campaign aimed at youth and establishing the Crisis Text Line.

Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, say public health experts. Although suicide prevention efforts largely focus on identifying and providing treatment for people with mental health conditions, Santa Clara County’s Behavioral Health Services Department has focused on partnerships and other activities to promote suicide prevention:

  • School District Partnerships with seven Santa Clara County school districts developed suicide prevention and crisis response policies. Additionally, they planned training for teachers and school staff and provided crisis response protocols and policies. 
  • Safe Storage of Guns ordinances were passed in the cities of San Jose, Morgan Hill, Saratoga and Sunnyvale.
  • Mobile Crisis Response Teams were expanded to the general public to increase the response to mental health emergencies in our community. Residents can now call 1-800-704-0900 and select option 2 to request a Mobile Crisis Response Team response. 
  • Crisis Text Line was established. Residents can now text RENEW to 741741. A digital and social media campaign is being conducted to raise awareness about the new text line.