Suicides in National Parks Increase in 2008

Friday, 02 January 2009
Here is a pretty sad story and to be honest, not one that I even thought happened. I guess I had never thought about it before. According to some recently released search and rescue stats for 2008, suicide rates increased in national parks in 2008.

At least 33 people killed themselves in 2008 at a national park, which is up from 27 in 2007.

One of the questions that people have been asking is why a national park?

"People are looking for a place with solace and comfort and beauty, and we have a lot of them," said Lane Baker, the Park Service's chief of law enforcement, security and emergency services.

"They come here in the happiest of times and unfortunately some choose to come in the saddest time of their lives," said one park superintendent, Joan Anzelmo.

Suicides can take a toll emotionally on rangers and financially for agencies that are part of search-and-recovery operations. After a gentleman went missing in Glacier, for instance, 30 to 40 people from a handful of agencies looked for him. In other places, recovering bodies or cars that go over cliffs can be dangerous and expensive.

Most law enforcement rangers in national parks are also trained in emergency medicine, which includes strategies in dealing with people in crisis. Some park employees are taught to keep an eye out for notes taped to steering wheels and at least one park, Colorado National Monument, has contemplated closing certain areas at night.

Several suicides are prevented by rangers each year, but it would be impossible to stop them all.

"I think anybody that does the kind of work that we do would like to offer hope to anybody that's at that point of despair in their life," Baker said. "But I'm not sure we can do anything to change that."

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David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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