A new state study shows the suicide rate in Alaska has jumped in recent years.
There was a 13 percent increase in suicides between 2012 and 2017 compared to a similar period from 2007 to 2011, Alaska Public Media reported.
Suicide was the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 64, according to the analysis by state health officials.
The rates were highest in northern and southwestern communities. The largest increase, however, was along the state's Railbelt.
Also seeing a significant increase was the area covering Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The region had a 61 percent hike in suicides, compared to the earlier period.
Deborah Hull-Jilly, a state epidemiologist who worked on the report, is also starting a yearlong project with other researchers to determine why suicides have increased after several years of declines.
A separate document accompanying the report outlined toxicology results following suicides since 2015. Those tests showed 70 percent involved one or more substances, most frequently alcohol.
"That is a question that we're going to have to answer: Are we seeing substance misuse impacting persons that are already at-risk for self-harm?" Hull-Jilly said.
Additional data on the role drugs and alcohol play in suicides could help health providers offer better treatments, Hull-Jilly said. She believes toxicology results could be a prevention strategy tool.
“We need to track those a little bit better so that we can understand how these drugs might be influencing people who are either contemplating self-harm, or something is occurring in their lives and it’s a very impulsive act,” she said.