- More than 34,000 suicides occurred in the U.S. This is the equivalent of 94 suicides per day; one suicide every 15 minutes or 11.26 suicides per 100,000 population. [CDC, Suicide: At a Glance, PDF in The Spotlight box]
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year olds. [CDC, Suicide: At a Glance, PDF in The Spotlight box]
- Deaths from suicide are only part of the problem. More people survive suicide attempts than actually die. In 2009, more than 374,000 people received medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the United States. CDC Preventing Suicide
Family members and friends of a loved one who dies by or attempts suicide cry out in bewildered anguish and pain, “How could they?” “What could be so wrong?” The victim of the death by suicide is often blamed and the family carries the guilt that there was something they missed, something they could have done. And so this significant cause of death goes into hiding, shrouded in stigma, secrecy and shame,
Risk Factors for Suicide
We can never know why a person dies by suicide, but we can definitely do more to talk about it, understand it and from there, prevent it. And we can start with these three key risk factors. According to CDC Preventing Suicide, key risk factors such as these put one person vs another at risk for death by suicide:
- History of depression or other mental illness
Mental illness (depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar, as examples) are brain changers. They actually change the way the brain functions, which in turn changes the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. We must view mental illness as a disease like any other – one that can be treated if diagnosed and from which a person can go on to live an enjoyable life.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- History of alcohol or drug abuse
Alcohol or drug abuse – whether it’s “just” binge drinking or heavy social drinking or drug addiction / alcoholism, it’s a brain changer. When a person is under the influence, normal brain activity in so many areas of the brain (those controlling mood, judgment, decision making, memories, as examples) is compromised. As a result, a person does not think, behave or act the way they normally do. Additionally, if the person does have alcoholism or drug addiction, they have the brain disease of addiction. We must view addiction as a disease like any other – one that can be treated if diagnosed by self or an addictions professional and from which a person can go on to live an enjoyable life.
NIAAA Rethinking Drinking
The Addiction Project
Alcoholism is a Disease and It’s Not Alcohol Abuse
- Family history of suicide
Just as there are genetic predispositions to height, skin color, certain diseases (because we have roughly 25,000 genes coded in our DNA) so too can a person inherit genetic differences (higher or lower levels of a particular neurotransmitter or receptor type, for example) that predispose them to alcoholism or drug addiction or mental illness.
Key resource – the individual – look at your family history for mental illness, substance abuse and/or addiction.
Help Prevent Suicide
Each of us can and must do our part — learn more, talk about it, spread the word. Together we can bring this cause of death — SUICIDE — into the open where it can be understood and prevented.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.