More on the Suicide Epidemic

Suicide continues to be a significant problem in the United States, and remains the 10th leading cause of death. In 2011, 39,518 people took their own lives.

The numbers are more alarming when broken down by age and gender. Consider that almost 5,000 Americans between the ages of 10 and 24 die by suicide each year, making it the second leading cause of death in this age group.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years as well as persons ages 25-34. It’s the fourth leading cause of death among persons ages 35-54, and the eighth leading cause of death among those 55-64.

Those suicides committed by the 15 – 24 year olds account for 20% of all suicides.

Based on data about suicides in 16 National Violent Death Reporting System states in 2009, 33.3% of those who committed suicide tested positive for alcohol, 23% for antidepressants, and 20.8% for opiates, including heroin and prescription pain killers.

The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, and suicide attempts is significantly higher among young adults aged 18-29 years than among adults aged ≥30 years.

A wide-scale nationally representative survey among adolescents, young adults, and adults revealed the following:

– Among young adults ages 15 to 24 years old, there are approximately 100-200 attempts for every completed suicide.

HIGH SCHOOLERS (9th – 12th Grades):
– 15.8% of these students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey.
– 12.8% of students reported that they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey.
– 7.8% of students reported that they had attempted suicide one or more times during the 12 months preceding the survey.
– 2.4% of students reported that they had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that required medical attention.

ADULTS (18 and older):
– An estimated 8.3 million adults (3.7% of the adult U.S. population) reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year.
– An estimated 2.2 million adults (1.0% of the adult U.S. population) reported having made suicide plans in the past year.
– An estimated 1 million adults (0.5% of the U.S. adult population) reported making a suicide attempt in the past year.
– There is one suicide for every 25 attempted suicides in this age group.

– Suicide among males is four times higher than among females and represents 79% of all U.S. suicides.
Females are more likely than males to have had suicidal thoughts.
– Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males (56%).
– Poisoning is the most common method of suicide for females (37.4%).

Psychologist Terri Erbacher who teaches at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, does crisis interventions and is co-author of a new book, “Suicide in Schools.” Dr. Erbacher stated the following about suicide among young adults; “With social media, word about a suicide gets out lightning fast — and when kids digest the news without adult input, it’s not a good scenario. Kids might glorify the suicide, romanticize it, or think somehow the death was their fault.”

Perhaps the most important point she made was in regards to misconceptions regarding who is at risk in schools where a student or students have recently committed suicide:
“The kids who were closest to the person who committed suicide, however, are not the most at risk. It’s the kids who knew of that person, but didn’t really know that person, who go up in their risk if they have pre-existing risk factors. They end up thinking that maybe this is the solution.”

– In 2011, 487,700 people were treated in emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries.
– In 2012, over 483,586 people with self-inflicted injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments.
– These numbers underestimate this problem. Many people who have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts never seek services.

– Nonfatal, self-inflicted injuries result in an estimated $6.5 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.
– These include suicidal and non-suicidal behaviors such as self-mutilation.
– Suicide AND self-inflicted injuries result in an estimated $41.2 billion in combined medical and work loss costs.

Pennsylvania has just become more proactive in suicide prevention — new legislation mandates that starting this September, all teachers in the state will have to be trained in recognizing the signs of suicide risk. New Jersey already requires the training.

Hopefully more states will institute similar legislation. Regardless, it’s of crucial necessity to become educated as to the warning signs for those at risk. There’s a wealth of information within the references below, and as always, feel free to contact me for more information. If you believe someone you know is at risk, it’s always better to err on the side of safety and say something.

The epidemic among United States Veterans is an overwhelmingly alarming epidemic and deserves its own post, which is forthcoming.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2012). Retrieved from:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States. MMWR, Surveillance Summaries 2012;61(no. SS-4). Retrieved from:

Crosby AE, Han B, Ortega LAG, Parks SE, Gfoerer J. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adults aged ≥18 years-United States. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 2011;60(no. SS-13). Retrieved from:

Goldsmith SK, Pellmar TC, Kleinman AM, Bunney WE, editors. Reducing suicide: a national imperative. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 2002.

Karch DL, Logan J, McDaniel D, Parks S, Patel N. Surveillance for violent deaths—National Violent Death Reporting System, 16 States. MMWR Surveillance Summary 2012; 61:1-43. Retrieved from:

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