Virginia suicides at 13-year high in 2011

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Suicides in Virginia were at a 13-year high in 2011, according to a report from the state medical examiner's office.

Virginians are three times more likely to die from suicide than homicide, according to the report on the most recent data available. Older, white males were the most likely to kill themselves.

The medical examiner's office said unemployment, relationship problems and lack of access to mental health resources all contribute to rising numbers. The data is used to update Virginia's suicide prevention efforts.

The report comes as police investigate two bizarre incidents they believe may have been suicides.

Virginia State Police say they believe suicide was a factor in a small plane crash in Spotsylvania County on Monday that killed the pilot, 22-year-old Edwin G. Hassel of Fredericksburg. Spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the single-engine Cessna 172M was flying near Shannon Airport when it descended rapidly and crashed. The plane then caught fire.

Spotsylvania Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Pearce said that shortly before the crash, dispatchers received calls about someone threatening suicide.

Richmond authorities are investigating whether suicide was the motive for the driver of a car that sped into the James River on Tuesday. Twenty-seven-year-old Barry L. Scott's car was pulled from the river on Wednesday. Witnesses told police the driver made no attempt to hit the vehicle's brakes before it launched into the James.

Detectives don't expect foul play was involved, police said Thursday.

Freddie Dabney III died in the same manner in January 2012 after driving his car into the James River. His father told WWBT-TV he would have gotten his son psychiatric help but he couldn't afford it.

"If I had some money I would have checked into it," Freddie Dabney, Jr. said. "You're supposed to go before your children do. It's not happening like that now."

Intentional drowning is uncommon, according to the report.

Handguns were used in nearly half of the suicides, following by hangings and drug use.

Also revealed in the report:

-Males were 3.4 times more likely to commit suicide than females.

-Whites committed suicide more than five times more than Hispanics, four times more than Asians and three times more often than blacks.

-Suicides were not more prevalent during holiday months. Instead, April and October were the months with the most suicides.

-The majority of suicides fell on Mondays.