By 2014, the rate of suicide among Americans reached 13 per 100,000 people, an increase of 24 percent since 1999, with significant increases among young women between the ages of 10 and 14, and among middle aged men, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Deborah Stone is a CDC behavioral scientist but did not assist in the study. She said: “This increase is puzzling and troubling. Despite increased suicide prevention efforts, rates are rising.”
Why Have Suicide Rates Increased?
There are a number of theories as to why the numbers show an increased rate of suicide in recent years. These include:
- Economic decline: The sharp, downward spike of the economy in 2008 resulted in significant loss for many Americans. Financial stress is often related to substance use and abuse as well as increased mental health issues like anxiety and depression, which in turn are connected to higher suicide rates.
- Inaccurate reporting: Historically, a great stigma against suicide has meant that many deaths have gone inaccurately reported in the past, but a movement toward lifting the stigma may have meant that suicides may not have increased but were more accurately reported.
- Gun availability: Many who commit suicide do so by using guns, and in the past couple of decades, guns have become more readily available to the public, and their use more widely publicized.
- Drug availability: A wide range of drugs and potentially addictive and deadly substances have become more readily available in recent years as well. It is now possible to purchase drugs that are illegal, or illegal without a prescription, over the Internet, and many are using this resource as their method of suicide.
- Increased mental health problems: Though the causes of different mental health issues are wide and varied, many point to the fact that there have been higher rates of mental health issues in general among the public in recent years. This, in turn, can lead to higher rates of suicide.
Stats and Facts
According to the study:
- The years between 2006 and 2014 showed the greatest increases in suicide rates; between 1999 and 2006, rates of suicide increased on average about 1 percent every year, but after 2006, the rates of suicide increased by about 2 percent each year.
- Suicide rates among men far outnumbered those among women – three times as many men took their own lives in 2014 as compared to women.
- Guns were the most common method used to commit suicide among men. Women most commonly used “poisoning,” or overuse of illicit substances that led to drug overdose. Additionally, 25 percent of suicides among both genders were committed using suffocation, including hanging.
- Rates of suicide increased most among American Indians and Caucasians, and dropped among African American males.
- Rates of suicide were highest among men over the age of 75.
- There was a 200 percent increase in suicides among girls between the ages of 10 and 14 during the study period.
- There was a 43 percent rise in suicide rates among men between the ages of 45 and 64 over the 15-year period.
Daniel Reidenberg is the managing director of the National Council for Suicide Prevention. He notes: “One thing that the findings don’t tell us is how many lives we are saving from suicide every day or every year through suicide prevention efforts.”
Reidenberg also pointed out that the research did not note the toll taken on the family when one member commits suicide. This factor is significant, he says, because studies show that mental and physical health problems are more common among those who lose someone they love to suicide, including a personal increased risk of committing suicide as well.
There are a number of different signs and indications that someone may be at risk of suicide. These include:
- Talking about suicide, ways to die, or death in general
- An increase in use or abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
- Pervading hopelessness or feeling that there is no purpose to life
- Isolating oneself and avoiding close friends and family
- Losing focus on hobbies, work, and other interests
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Significant mood swings, especially increased irritability or explosive anger
- Engaging in reckless or life-threatening behavior
Finding a Solution
It is not easy to address a problem that is so widely varied in its cause and that strikes so many different populations at different times in their lives, but increasing awareness is a priority – not only that suicide is a risk and taking so many lives but also that there are solutions and others ways to manage the driving issues underlying suicide.
If someone you care about is struggling with depression or exhibits any of the signs listed above that indicate an increased risk of suicide, it is important to take action right away. The sooner that someone begins receiving treatment, the more likely it is that they will learn positive coping mechanisms that will help manage the feelings of hopelessness and purposelessness before it is too late. There are a number of treatment options that can be effective (e.g., inpatient care and monitoring, medication, outpatient therapy, group support, etc.), but the specific treatment plan for each individual will vary based on circumstance, goals for treatment, and personal life goals.
Says Dr. Stone: “It takes a community-wide effort to prevent suicides, so we can’t expect one thing is going to solve everything.”
The important thing is to take action now.