Demographics of Suicide Victims in Maine for 2017 and 2018 with Emphasis on Suicide Notes

(Three-Minute Read)

Policy in Brief:

The authors of this study (Victoria Rideout, Raymond Kennard, Alicia Wilcox, and Mark Flomenbaum) examined suicide deaths in Maine from 2017 and 2018 looking for correlations between age, gender, veteran status, method, and presence of a note in suicide victims. The study revealed correlations between the act of leaving a suicide note and the method that individuals utilized in carrying out their suicide.

Fascinating Features:

The suicide rate in the United States increased by 30 percent between 1999 and 2016 and suicide ranks among the top 10 causes of death with 44,965 people dying from suicide in 2017.

The rate of suicide in Maine has also been on the rise. In 2008 the rate was 12.7 per 100,000 people increasing to 18.8 per 100,000 people in 2017. This represents an alarming 48 percent increase with Maine’s suicide rate growing at twice the national average.

Suicide death in Maine costs the state approximately $211 million per year in medical and work-loss costs. Thus, preventing suicide not only is beneficial for the well-being of the population but also for the cost of health care.

The Demographics of Suicide:

Chart Showing Average Sucide Age to be 50 years old

  • Men tend to die from suicides more often than women do
    • Four out of five suicide deaths are men
    • Part of the reason for this gendered difference is that men tend to choose more rapidly lethal methods
  • The suicide rate among veterans is higher than that of the general population
    • In Maine 22 percent of suicide victims are veterans despite the fact that veterans only make up 8.7 percent of Maine’s population.
    • This makes veterans 2.5 times more likely to die from suicide in Maine than the general population
  • 30 percent of suicide victims left a note
  • The highest rates of suicide are among adults between the ages 45 and 54
    • 62 percent of Maine’s suicide victims are over the age of 50

Methods of Suicide:

Chart of Suicide Methods

  • Nationally, firearms are the most common method at 50%
    • In Maine 56 percent of suicides are caused by firearms
  • Asphyxiations make up 28 percent
  • Intoxications (usually overdoses) make up 14 percent
  • Other methods such as jumping from heights and carbon monoxide poisoning make up 8 percent

Chart of the Above Data on Suicide method


The hope of this study is to prompt policymakers and government officials to look at these issues in more depth to change current laws and to institute new data-driven suicide-prevention programs to combat the problem.

One example is that the Maine gov website focuses on suicide in younger and school-aged populations. However, Maine has the highest median age in the US and older people have a far greater rate of suicide than younger people.

Similarly, the state should target veterans and those in the military more specifically due to their high rate of suicides.

Researchers also found Maine’s high rate of suicide by firearm to be of great concern and urge state lawmakers to address this problem through the modification of gun laws to prevent individuals from not only harming others but also themselves. Suggestions include red flag laws which would allow police to seize guns from individuals who could pose a threat to themselves or others.

Finally, the authors suggest the creation of a database of suicide notes that can be analyzed by the medical examiner’s office and psychologists. Retrospective analyses of the suicide victims in the context of their notes could identify people who might not have been considered part of the usual at-risk population.

Dig Deeper:

Rideout, Victoria, Raymond Kennard, Alicia M. Wilcox, and Mark Flomenbaum. “Demographics of Suicide Victims in Maine for 2017 and 2018 with Emphasis on Suicide Notes.” Maine Policy Review 28.2 (2019) : 49-57.

From MPR’s Archive:

Harwood, William S.  “Gun Control: State Versus Federal Regulation of Firearms.” Maine Policy Review 11.1 (2002) : 58-73.

Mills, Dora Anne. “Top 10 Health Issues Faced by Maine People.” Maine Policy Review 12.1 (2003) : 30 -54.

Sorg, Marcella H., Margaret Greenwald, and Jamie A. Wren. “Patterns of Drug-induced Mortality in Maine, 2015 Update.” Maine Policy Review 25.1 (2016) : 34-46.

Related Resources:

Sorg, Marcella H., “An Overview of Human Health Issues” (2009). Anthropology Faculty Scholarship. 28.

Sorg, Marcella H., “Drug-Induced Deaths in Maine 1997-2008, with Estimates for 2009” (2010). Anthropology Faculty Scholarship. 20.

Sorg, Marcella H., “Expanded Maine Drug Death Report for 2017” (2018). Health & Public Safety. 6.