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Health officials struggling to grasp why Saratoga Co. has high suicide rate

Health officials struggling to grasp why Saratoga Co. has high suicide rate (WRGB)

SARATOGA COUNTY (WRGB)--Health officials are working to identify why one of New York's healthiest counties has such a high rate of suicide

The most recent state data shows Saratoga County is at the top when it comes to death by suicide in upstate New York.

Within the county, the greatest number of suicides took place in Clifton Park West, Saratoga Springs, and the Northeastern part of the county. The issue has startled health officials and has prompted immediate action. Michael Prezioso is Commissioner of the Saratoga County Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“To find we have a disproportionate amount of suicide I think was really surprising for a lot of people,” Prezioso said.

Prezioso says the most recent numbers of reported suicides in Saratoga County outweigh the rest of Upstate New York.

In 2016, the NYS Department of Health reported there were nearly twice as many suicides among teens and young adults in Saratoga County, compared to the rest of upstate.

The rate in Saratoga County was also nearly 50 percent higher than the rest of upstate for adults ages 45-54 and for seniors 75 and older.

“I think one of the other things that was quite surprising, the rate was highest among middle aged white males,” Prezioso said.

Prezioso says the numbers are stunning to health officials because Saratoga County has what are called "protective factors", high income levels, high graduation rates and good physical health, which are not associated with high rates of suicide.

“All of these protective factors should play more of a role than what we're seeing so we really need to get to the bottom of it,” Prezioso said.

As health officials struggle to grasp why this is happening, Laura Marx is working with the county to educate the public about the warning signs. Marx is the Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the Capital Region,

“Someone acting differently, not showing up to school, not showing up to work,” Marx said.

And she's encouraging intervention.

“Ask openly and honestly, are they thinking of killing themselves? Do they need help? What’s going on? Are they ok?” Marx said.

In response to the state data, Saratoga County is working to form a suicide prevention coalition to help spread awareness about the issue, and is looking for people to join.

The county is also involved in a suicide prevention panel discussion happening Tuesday May 23rd, at the Clifton Park- Halfmoon Public Library. The event starts at 6:30pm, and more information can be found here.

Saratoga County isn't the only county in the Capital Region with a high suicide rate.

Saratoga is tied with Schenectady County for the second highest number of suicides locally. Columbia County had the most suicide deaths in the region, according to the most recent state data from 2012-2014, which was released in 2016

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