There is a suicide crisis in the United States. In 2020, the U.S. experienced its highest ever rates of death due to suicide to ever be recorded in a single year. Suicide and suicide attempts have a devastating ripple effect that goes beyond the suffering individuals and into their greater community. That is why every September we observe National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – to promote healing, help others find help, and raise awareness of the role that any individual can play in preventing suicide.
The Suicide Crisis, By the Numbers
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with recent studies currently ranking it the 12th leading cause. The most current data shows that 45,900 people lost their lives to suicide in 2020 and that there were twice as many suicides in that year as there were homicides. That roughly equates to one death every eleven minutes. While the numbers on suicide alone in 2020 are staggering, the statistics on suicide attempts are equally grim. The most recent data collection shows that 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide in the recorded year.
Factors Driving the Suicide Crisis
There are many risk factors that drive suicide in individuals. Mental illness, substance abuse, discrimination, and being a victim of ongoing violence or post-traumatic stress are among the top risk factors. Other factors that have been connected to suicide risk include access to firearms, grief, social isolation and homelessness, and recent onset of dementia. For survivors of previous suicide attempts, the risk is even greater.
There are two primary schools of thought, when it comes to analyzing the root of rising suicide rates – clinical and sociological. Ninety percent of individuals who commit suicide suffer from a mental illness. Rates of suicide are especially high among those that suffer from major depression, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder. For those that ascribe to the clinical perspective of examining suicide, suicide prevention is directly related to access to mental health treatments. The vast majority of mental health advocates agree that tremendous improvements to the mental health system in the United States is sorely needed.
The sociological perspective weighs rising suicide rates alongside societal strife. Large-scale events like the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, and political and social hostility are obvious examples of this. However, sociological roots of high suicide rates are harder to demonstrate in data.
Resources for Suicide Prevention
Suicide is preventable. At the policy level and within the power of caring individuals. Creating greater stability in large areas like economy, housing, and access to care are significant steps that can be taken on by society at large. On the more personal level, promoting connectedness, teaching coping skills, and robust crisis intervention and support. Together, we can look out for one another and protect our communities.
For immediate help, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 and can be accessed by calling or texting 988 or utilizing the live chat.
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