Before we get into the facts of suicide, let’s first dispel some common myths.
People who talk about suicide are not really going to kill themselves. They are just looking for attention.
Fact: People who die by suicide usually talk about it first. Although suicide can occur without warning, most suicidal people plan their death in advance and give clues that indicate they have become suicidal. Generally, people who complete suicide have given many obvious and subtle clues of distress, such as saying goodbye and putting their affairs in order.
Raising the issue of suicide with someone who is depressed may just give them the idea.
Fact: Putting the idea in someone’s head should not be a concern. It is more important to directly address the possibility of suicidal thoughts in a non-judgmental and caring manner.
Openly talking about suicide can often provide relief.
Suicide rates are highest around the winter holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Fact: Suicide rates are actually lowest in winter months and highest in the spring.
Recent data on suicide
As much as people would like to think that suicide in the United States is uncommon, the reality is it is a leading cause of preventable death, and a major public health problem.
Take a look at some of the most recent data on suicide:
- Over 38,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year
- Internationally, about 1 million people die by suicide each year; more than from war and homicide combined.
- In 2009, more Americans died from suicide than from car accidents.
- For young people (15 – 24 years of age) suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death.
- For people under 45 years of age, suicide is among the top 5 causes of death.
- Older adults (age 65+) die by suicide at rates greater than the general population.
- Women attempt suicide three times more often than men.
- Men die by suicide four times more often than women.
- One third of suicide decedents tested positive for alcohol in 2009.
- 90% of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2013). Understanding suicide: Myth vs. fact. Retrieved on February 10, 2014
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2014). Facts and figures. Retrieved on February 11, 2014
- CDC Suicide facts at a glance. Retrieved February 14, 2012