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Is economy causing rise in suicide attempts?

CHARLOTTE — On a Tuesday night in March, the emergency room at Carolinas Medical Center was packed, much busier than usual for a week night.

The reason was unusual too: Ten patients had attempted suicide.

"I can't believe it's not related to the economy," one doctor told a visitor.

As it turned out, March was one of CMC's busiest months ever for treating patients who had tried to kill themselves or had been seriously thinking of suicide.

It is probably not a coincidence that March was also a low point for the recession. The stock market hit 12-year lows. Charlotte-area unemployment had doubled over the year before. And home foreclosures spiked in Mecklenburg County, with more than 1,000 filed – a first for any N.C. county in one month.

Area emergency physicians and mental health professionals can't say for sure, but they believe the recession could be responsible for the despair that may be causing more people to consider suicide. And while there was some improvement in April, health professionals are encouraging people to seek help and watch out for one another.

"You don't have to go through something like this by yourself," said Grayce Crockett, director of Mecklenburg Area Mental Health.

Crockett's agency, along with other Mecklenburg mental health organizations, is encouraging people who need help to contact professionals through hospital emergency rooms or crisis hot lines.

The latest state and national statistics on suicide are old, from 2007. But Crockett said anecdotal information "raises red flags" about an upward trend during the current recession.

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