July 30, 2014
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683

New Report Details the Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin

Information Will Be Used to Determine Best Methods of Prevention

MADISON-The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), in partnership with the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA), has released a new report, "The Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin: 2007-2011," whose findings can be used to help guide state suicide prevention programs. During the years covered by the report, the average annual number of suicides in Wisconsin was 724.

"We encourage mental health professionals and others involved in suicide prevention to use this data as they create targeted strategies for prevention," said Karen McKeown, State Health Officer.

"Suicide remains a significant public health burden in Wisconsin, with extraordinary costs that ripple through families and communities, costs that are both economic and emotional," said Stephen Hargarten, M.D., MPH, professor and chief of emergency medicine at MCW and the director of the MCW Injury Research Center. "We hope that by analyzing and incorporating this data into our prevention and policy strategies, we can better identify individuals at risk and provide successful interventions that reduce this burden in Wisconsin communities."

Some key findings from the report include:

  • The highest rate of suicide during this time period was among people between the ages of 45 and 54.
  • Teens and young adults had the highest rates of hospital visits for self-inflicted injuries.
  • Whites and American Indians had the highest rates of suicide; yet high school students of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely than their White peers to report suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens were more likely to report poor mental health, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors than their heterosexual peers.
  • Of the suicides with known circumstances, 51 percent had a current mental health problem, 35 percent had problems with an intimate partner, 26 percent had an alcohol problem, 23 percent had physical health problems, and 21 percent had job problems.

The information will be helpful to promote and use evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies to improve mental and behavioral health issues and interpersonal relationships. One example is a model called "Perfect Depression Care," which is being promoted by DHS in partnership with Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MHA). "Perfect Depression Care" is a statewide learning community of health care organizations that addresses the risk of suicide among people who are currently receiving mental health treatment. Currently, 10 organizations are part of "Perfect Depression Care" in Wisconsin.

According to Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy for MHA, "Perfect Depression Care is part of a national movement known as "Zero Suicide," which is seeking to change the clinical culture to one that views suicide as a "never" event. Organizations that have adopted this culture, and related best practices, have demonstrated dramatic reductions in suicide among their members."

For "The Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin: 2007-2011" visit:

For more information about Wisconsin-specific suicide prevention activities, visit:

For information about mental health programs in Wisconsin, visit:

For information on injury research, visit: