Child and adolescent suicide deaths in New Mexico, 1990-1994.

D. D. Werenko, L. M. Olson, L. Fullerton-Gleason, A. W. Lynch, R. E. Zumwalt, D. P. Sklar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The suicide death rate in New Mexico is consistently higher than the national rate. Among adolescents, suicide is the third leading cause of death nationally, but in New Mexico it is the second leading cause of death. This study describes the pattern of adolescent suicide deaths in New Mexico. We conducted a retrospective review of all medical examiner autopsies for adolescent suicides (ages 20 years and younger) in New Mexico from 1990-1994. Records were reviewed for demographics and possible contributing factors such as depression, previous attempts, and alcohol and drug use. We identified 184 suicide deaths among children and adolescents ages 9-20 years for an overall rate of 12.9 per 100,000. Our rates for ages 5-9 years (0.2), 10-14 years (3.8), and 15-19 years (22.3) are over twice the U. S. rates. Suicide deaths resulted primarily from firearms (67%), hanging (16%), poisoning (6%), inhalation (4%), and other methods (7%). Method varied by ethnicity (p = .01) and gender (p = .03); males and non-Hispanic Whites were overrepresented among firearm deaths. Firearm ownership was known in 60 (48%) of the firearm deaths. Of these, 53% of the firearms belonged to a family member, 25% to the decedent, and 22% to a friend. Over one-third of decedents (41%) experienced mental disorders, primarily depressed mood and clinical depression. Previous suicide attempts were noted for 15% of the decedents. Some 50% of the decedents had alcohol or drugs present at the time of death; among American Indians/Alaska Natives, 74% had drugs or alcohol present (p = .003). Targeted interventions are needed to reduce adolescent suicide in New Mexico. We suggest raising awareness about acute and chronic contributing factors to suicide; training physicians to look for behavioral manifestations of depression; and involving physicians, teachers, and youth activity leaders in efforts to limit firearm accessibility, such as advising parents to remove firearms from their households.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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