Statement of Purpose Suicide is a major public health problem. A recent statewide report cites a 40% increase in Wisconsin suicides from 2000 to 2017. However, rates were greater in rural counties, leaving in question the presence and significance of an increase in more densely populated counties such as Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. We thus sought to describe suicide rates in Milwaukee County, the largest and most diverse county in the state, and to determine whether rates have changed significantly over time.
Methods/Approach Data were obtained from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office (MCMEO) on all suicides from 2002 to 2020. The Wisconsin Interactive Statistics on Health system was used to determine county population levels. Joinpoint regression analyses were conducted to examine changes in suicide counts over time.
Results 2,046 suicides occurred from 2002 to 2020. Approximately 77% (n=1,752) suicide decedents were white, non-Hispanic, and 1,565 (76.5%) of decedents were male. Results indicate an increase in the proportion of suicides among Hispanic decedents (almost half of which were women) over time, and an increase in the proportion of suicides among Black decedents was noted in later years. Joinpoint regression analyses indicated a statistically significant increase in suicide rates over time.
Conclusion Suicide rates increased significantly in Milwaukee County over the last 18 years. Expanded interventions and research are sorely needed to reverse this concerning trend.
Significance Suicide is a complex health issue that impacts large cities just as it impacts more rural settings. However, the context in large cities differs from that in smaller communities, and therefore it is important to consider suicide in densely populated counties as a unique phenomenon that requires contextually relevant prevention strategies. This study provides critical information that can be used to save lives from suicide in large, diverse communities.
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