Objectives: To characterize the events and examine suicide precursors among women and to examine gaps in surveillance.
Setting: A statewide study in North Carolina.
Methods: Suicides of women age 15 and older for the time period 1989–93, as identified from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, were included. All case files were reviewed by hand and telephone interviews were attempted with investigating law enforcement officials for every case in 1993.
Results: Altogether 882 suicides met the case definition, for an age adjusted rate that fluctuated between 5.53 and 7.26 per 100 000 women across the period. Interviews with law enforcement officials were completed for 135 of the 177 cases from 1993. White women had rates nearly three times those of racial minorities. Women under age 45 were proportionally more likely than older women to have recently experienced the breakup of an intimate relationship. Information about precursors was not as consistently reported as had been hoped. Medical examiner records were variable in completeness. Law enforcement interviews frequently did not yield information about the factors we had hoped to examine, probably because the investigations were conducted primarily to rule out homicide.
Conclusions: This study suggests somewhat different precursor patterns by age group. It also points to the need for reconsidering how suicide surveillance is accomplished as a strategy to guide intervention.
- self afflicted injury
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