Suicide is among the most common causes of death in the United States. People may consider suicide when they are hopeless and can’t see any other solution to their problems. Often it’s related to serious depression, alcohol or substance abuse, or a major stressful event.
People who have the highest risk of suicide are white men. But women and teens report more suicide attempts. If someone talks about suicide, you should take it seriously. Urge them to get help from their doctor or the emergency room, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline either by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visiting their Lifeline Crisis Chat website. They can also text the Crisis Text Line by texting “GO” to 741741.
Therapy and medicines can help most people who have suicidal thoughts. Treating mental illnesses and substance abuse can reduce the risk of suicide.
Watch the video “Break the silence for suicide survivors by JD Schramm:
Suicidal behavior is complex. Some risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may occur in combination or change over time.
Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In 2007, it was the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths. The overall rate was 11.3 suicide deaths per 100,000 people. An estimated 11 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.
In 2007, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24.
As in the general population, young people were much more likely to use firearms, suffocation, and poisoning than other methods of suicide, overall. However, while adolescents and young adults were more likely to use firearms than suffocation, children were dramatically more likely to use suffocation.
There were also gender differences in suicide among young people, as follows:
- Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide.
- Just under six times as many males as females ages 20 to 24 died by suicide.
What are the risk factors for suicide?
Research shows that risk factors for suicide include:
- depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors.
- prior suicide attempt
- family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
- family history of suicide
- family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- firearms in the home, the method used in more than half of suicides
- exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.
However, suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal. Research also shows that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims.
Public health approaches to preventing suicide include establishing telephone crisis hot lines, restricting access to suicide methods (for example, firearms), counseling media to reduce “copycat” suicides, screening teens for risk factors of suicide, and training professionals to improve recognition and treatment of mood disorders. Research about the effectiveness of these methods indicates that the screening and training strategies are more helpful for preventing suicides among young people than the other methods are.
Suicide and Self-Harm: MedlinePlus, NLM, NIH, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/suicide.html