The number of Iowans who killed themselves rose 12-percent last year, which is prompting renewed concern from activists today (Friday) on International Suicide Prevention Day. Jeremy Brigham is a member of Iowa’s Suicide Prevention Strategy Steering Committee. He says suicide is both a very private and a very public act.In 2003, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported 350 suicides statewide and “each one of them touches a wide circle of family and friends” in addition to five times as many suicide attempts. There were 312 suicides in 2002 in Iowa and 308 suicides in 2001. Brigham says the causes for the jump from 2002 to 2003 are unclear, but he has suspicions. He points to socioeconomic factors like the loss of health insurance and the loss of jobs, in addition to substance abuse and mental illnesses. Brigham says of the 350 Iowans who killed themselves last year, about half — 176 — used a gun. He says part of today’s effort is to make people aware of the risk involved in having a gun in the house. He says many studies have found the more homes that have guns, the higher the suicide rate. Brigham says they’re working to find storage sites for Iowans’ rifles and shotguns during non-hunting seasons so people might have an alternate place to put them. Brigham is also a researcher for the group Iowans For the Prevention of Gun Violence. For more information, surf to “www.ipgv.org”.
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