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Suicide Solution

Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention

A fact sheet of statistics on suicide with information on
treatments and suicide prevention. (2009).

* Introduction
* What are the risk factors for suicide?
* Are women or men at higher risk?
* Is suicide common among children and young
* Are older adults at risk?
* Are Some Ethnic Groups or Races at Higher
* What are some risk factors for nonfatal
suicide attempts?
* What can be done to prevent suicide?
* What should I do if I think someone is
* For More Information About Suicide
* References

Suicide is a major, preventable public health problem. In
2006, it was the eleventh leading cause of death in the
U.S., accounting for 33,300 deaths.1 The overall rate was
10.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 people.1 An estimated 12 to
25 attempted suicides occur per every suicide death.1

Suicidal behavior is complex. Some risk factors vary with
age, gender, or ethnic group and may occur in combination or
change over time.
If you are in a crisis and need help right away:

Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every
day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone.
You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All
calls are confidential.
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.2
* 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,3 the method used in
more than half of suicides
* incarceration
* exposure to the suicidal behavior of
others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.2

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. 4
Are women or men at higher risk?

* Suicide was the seventh leading cause of
death for males and the sixteenth leading cause of death for
females in 2006.1
* Almost four times as many males as females
die by suicide.1
* Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by
far the most common methods of suicide, overall. However,
men and women differ in the method used, as shown below.1

Suicide by: Males (%)
Females (%)
Firearms 56 31
Suffocation 23 19
Poisoning 13 40
Is suicide common among children and young people?

In 2006, suicide was the third leading cause of death for
young people ages 15 to 24.1 Of every 100,000 young people
in each age group, the following number died by suicide:1

* Children ages 10 to 14 — 1.3 per 100,000
* Adolescents ages 15 to 19 — 8.2 per
* Young adults ages 20 to 24 — 12.5 per

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. 1

There were also gender differences in suicide among young
people, as follows:

* Over four times as many males as females
ages 15 to 19 died by suicide.1
* More than six times as many males as
females ages 20 to 24 died by suicide.1

Are older adults at risk?

Older Americans are disproportionately likely to die by

* Of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older,
14.2 died by suicide in 2006. This figure is higher than the
national average of 10.9 suicides per 100,000 people in the
general population. 1
* Non-Hispanic white men age 85 or older had
an even higher rate, with 48 suicide deaths per 100,000.1

Are Some Ethnic Groups or Races at Higher Risk?

Of every 100,000 people in each of the following
ethnic/racial groups below, the following number died by
suicide in 2006.1

* Highest rates:
o American Indian and
Alaska Natives — 15.1 per 100,000
o Non-Hispanic Whites
— 13.9 per 100,000
* Lowest rates:
o Hispanics — 4.9 per
o Non-Hispanic Blacks
— 5.0 per 100,000
o Asian and Pacific
Islanders — 5.7 per 100,000

What are some risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts?

* As noted, an estimated 12 to 25 nonfatal
suicide attempts occur per every suicide death. Men and the
elderly are more likely to have fatal attempts than are
women and youth.1
* Risk factors for nonfatal suicide attempts
by adults include depression and other mental disorders,
alcohol and other substance abuse and separation or
* Risk factors for attempted suicide by youth
include depression, alcohol or other drug-use disorder,
physical or sexual abuse, and disruptive behavior.6,7
* Most suicide attempts are expressions of
extreme distress, not harmless bids for attention. A person
who appears suicidal should not be left alone and needs
immediate mental-health treatment.

What can be done to prevent suicide?

Research helps determine which factors can be modified to
help prevent suicide and which interventions are appropriate
for specific groups of people. Before being put into
practice, prevention programs should be tested through
research to determine their safety and effectiveness. 8 For
example, because research has shown that mental and
substance-abuse disorders are major risk factors for
suicide, many programs also focus on treating these
disorders as well as addressing suicide risk directly.

Studies showed that a type of psychotherapy called
cognitive therapy reduced the rate of repeated suicide
attempts by 50 percent during a year of follow-up. A
previous suicide attempt is among the strongest predictors
of subsequent suicide, and cognitive therapy helps suicide
attempters consider alternative actions when thoughts of
self-harm arise.9

Specific kinds of psychotherapy may be helpful for specific
groups of people. For example, a treatment called
dialectical behavior therapy reduced suicide attempts by
half, compared with other kinds of therapy, in people with
borderline personality disorder (a serious disorder of
emotion regulation). 10

The medication clozapine is approved by the Food and Drug
Administration for suicide prevention in people with
schizophrenia. 11 Other promising medications and
psychosocial treatments for suicidal people are being

Since research shows that older adults and women who die by
suicide are likely to have seen a primary care provider in
the year before death, improving primary-care providers'
ability to recognize and treat risk factors may help prevent
suicide among these groups.12 Improving outreach to men at
risk is a major challenge in need of investigation.
What should I do if I think someone is suicidal?

If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her
alone. Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his
or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or
call 911. Eliminate access to firearms or other potential
tools for suicide, including unsupervised access to

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