The suicide rate for middle-aged Indiana residents rose almost 54 percent during an 11-year period, an increase nearly twice the national rate and one of the highest among the 50 states, health officials reported Thursday.
In 1999, 289 middle-aged Indiana residents killed themselves. That statistic rose to 506 in 2010.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's report shows Indiana's suicide rate among people ages 35 to 64 rose from about 12.7 suicides per 100,000 residents in 1999 to about 19.5 suicides per 100,000 in 2010.
Indiana's nearly 54 percent suicide rate increase over that time frame was the nation's eighth-highest. Over the same period, the national suicide rate among middle-aged Americans climbed 28 percent.
In Illinois, the increase in the suicide rate among the middle-aged was less pronounced, climbing nearly 19 percent during the same time frame. The rate rose from 11 suicides per 100,000 people to 13 suicides per 100,000.
Fidel Martinez, a licensed clinical social worker and manager of psychiatric therapists at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Dyer, did not want to speculate on the reason for the spike. But he said it indicates a need for more mental health funding.
"Obviously, it reflects the need for more mental health services for the entire population," he said.
For the middle-aged, the rate jumped from about 14 per 100,000 to nearly 18 — a 28 percent increase. Among whites in that age group, it spiked from about 16 to 22, according to the CDC.
During the 1999-2010 period, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of death among middle-aged Americans to the fourth, behind cancer, heart disease and accidents.
The trend was most pronounced among white men and women in that age group. Their suicide rate jumped 40 percent between 1999 and 2010.
Rates in younger and older people held steady. And there was little change among middle-aged blacks, Hispanics and most other racial and ethnic groups.
The report's 11-year time frame includes the recession and the mortgage crisis, yet it does not indicate what may have driven the increases in middle-aged people taking their own lives.
Thomas Simon, a researcher with the CDC's Injury Prevention Center, said the report was based on death certificates that don't include information on economic stresses, substance abuse or mental health problems, which makes it difficult to say with certainty what's driving the suicide rate increases.
But Simon, who co-authored the report, said some of the possible factors behind the increases could include the baby boomer generation's historically higher suicide rate, rising substance abuse — particularly prescription drug abuse and overdoses — and the impact of economic turmoil and uncertainties.
"We saw the burst of the dot.com bubble in 2001, we saw the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009 and the instability associated with those incidents, so that may be potentially contributing to the increase," Simon said.
Alice Jordan-Miles, director of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition, said state and federal budget cuts over the years may have played a role in the increase by reducing the availability of mental health care for many people who might not be able to afford it.