Isles fare well in study on depression
Hawaii ranks in the top 10 states with low depression and suicide rates, Mental Health America reported in a study released today.
The state ranks second, behind South Dakota, among the "least depressed" states and ninth lowest in suicide deaths.
"It's good news that we have low rates of people who actually die by suicide, but we have some serious concerns about the rates of adolescents who report they are suicidal," said Marya Grambs, executive director, Mental Health America of Hawaii.
"Ranking America's Mental Health: An Analysis of Depression Across the States" is the first study to look at state and national data relating to access to mental health care and outcomes. Grambs said yesterday she was trying to contact the national organization with questions about the research, done by Thomson Health.
However, the data does not include a 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey asking high school students about suicide, Grambs pointed out.
Of 39 states responding to the youth study, Hawaii had the highest percentage of youths (17 percent) reporting they had made a suicide plan, the second highest percentage (nearly 20 percent) saying they seriously considered attempting suicide and 13 percent who said they attempted suicide, she said.
Ninth-graders in Hawaii were reported at the highest risk, Grambs said.
Depression, a chronic disease, is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15 to 44, with lost productive time for workers estimated at more than $31 billion per year, according to the new study.
Suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States in 2004 and third among those 15 to 24 years of age, it said.
In Hawaii about 123 people commit suicide annually -- one in every three days, the state Health Department's Injury Prevention & Control Program has reported.
"I think we should feel very good that the number of people who die by suicide is fairly low compared to other states," Grambs said. She attributes this to "health system improvements, excellent insurance coverage for most people and lack of access to firearms."
She said Hawaii provides good mental health resources and access to health care. "But everyone has to be really alert for signs that adolescents may be in despair and contemplating suicide. We have to learn to ask those questions and get these kids help."
Findings in the new study reflect improvements in public and private agencies regarding access to services, said Dr. Thomas Hester, chief of the state Health Department's Adult Mental Health Division.
"However, the suicide rate is not acceptable, and the Department of Health has already formally launched a suicide prevention initiative," he said.
He said specialized training in suicide assessments and other steps have been taken throughout the mental health system, but he emphasized, "Suicide is the entire community's responsibility."
Depression rates in nation
The 10 states with the lowest prevalence of depression:
9. North Dakota
The states (and the District of Columbia) with lowest suicide rates:
1. District of Columbia
2. New York
4. New Jersey
5. Rhode Island