S.F. has highest youth suicide rate in Bay Area

San Francisco is the only Bay Area County that has a higher average of children's suicides than the state average, according to data collected by the Lucile Packard Foundation, .

In California, 7.3 of every 100,000 youth, ages 15 to 24, commit suicide, said Andy Krackov, senior director of public information at the Lucile Packard Foundation. This number comes from analyzing the amount of youth suicides from 2002 through 2004. The foundation breaks this data down by county as well, and San Mateo came in with the lowest rate of suicide, Krackov said.

San Mateo County had only 4.1 suicides per every 100,000 youth, Krackov said. Next was Alameda County with 5.9, Santa Clara County had a rate of 6.6, Contra Costa County reported a rate of 6.8 and San Francisco County came in the highest with a suicide rate of 9.0 suicides per every 100,000 youth. Marin County has such a small population, Krakovsaid, that no rate could be computed from the data collected.

In 2003, 392 youth committed suicide in California, Krakov said. The Bay Area reported 47 of these deaths. Santa Clara County had the largest number with 21 reported suicides, but it also has the largest population of any Bay Area county. Alameda County had 11 reported suicides, San Francisco had 8, Contra Costa had 4, San Mateo had 3 and Marin County did not report any youth suicides.

Youth suicides are difficult to track, because the data depends on family members reporting the incident as suicide. Some suicides may be reported as an accident, which would change the data, Krakov said.

It is nearly impossible, Krakov said, to compare California data to federal data, because federal data counts the number of youth suicides as an age bracket from ages 10 to 24, and California counts youth suicides from ages 5 to 24.

According to a statement released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for youth in the United States 10 to 24 years of age increased by eight percent from 2003 to 2004. This is the largest increase in 15 years.

The data collected by the center indicates that an increase in three particular groups account for the overall jump in numbers. Girls 10 to 14 years old, girls 15 to 19 years old and boys 15 to 19 years old all had a significant increase in the number of suicides. Prior to 2003, all three of these groups had seen a decrease in the number of intentional deaths, according to the center.

Sept. 9 through 15 is National Suicide Prevention Week, according to the American Association of Suicidology. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for U.S. youth aged 15 to 24.

— Bay City News

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