CW: This post discusses suicide.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the United States and every year, I aim to write posts and share information directly related to suicide prevention throughout the month. Though this month of awareness has grown in recent years, there are still many challenges to how we discuss suicide prevention. That said, I think this month is a good opportunity to have conversations and demand attention for suicide prevention. It’s a public health issue, and we should do everything we can to push for more education and awareness around suicide prevention.
But what does it mean to have more education and awareness around this topic? How do we tackle such a seemingly overwhelming subject? It might seem difficult, but it’s possible. Because here’s the thing: whether we acknowledge it or not, suicide is a public health issue that needs attention in the United States and around the world. Here are some statistics that paint a complicated picture of suicide prevention in this country:
- Suicide rates for females in all age groups over age 25 showed recent declines, while rates for those aged 10–14 and 15–24 have generally increased.
- In 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death for all ages in the United States, changing from the 10th leading cause in 2019 due to the emergence of COVID-19 deaths and increases in deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
- As the second leading cause of death in people aged 10–34 and the fifth leading cause in people aged 35–54, suicide is a major contributor to premature mortality
- The suicide rate for males was 3–4 times the rate for females during the 2000–2020 period.
From the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Suicide was the twelfth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of over 45,900 people.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10-14 and 25-34, the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15-24, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44.
- There were nearly two times as many suicides (45,979) in the United States as there were homicides (24,576).
According to the NationalAlliance on Mental Illness:
- Approximately 11% of young adults (ages 18-25) report that they’ve had serious thoughts about suicide, and about 1–2% report a suicide attempt during the prior year.
- These numbers are higher among high school students — nearly 20% report serious thoughts about suicide and 9% report a suicide attempt.
- Among young adults 15–24 years old in the U.S., the rate of death by suicide in 2019 was about 14 per 100,000 people — slightly higher than one suicide for every 10,000 people in this age group.
And finally, from UCLA Health:
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people age 15 to 24 in the U.S.
- Nearly 20% of high school students report serious thoughts of suicide and 9% have made an attempt to take their lives
These statistics paint a picture of what suicide prevention looks like in the United States. This month isn’t just about raising awareness, but educating people about suicide prevention and how we can prevent suicide. There are many resources from organizations and advocacy groups that discuss how we can work to prevent suicide and while they’re available year-round, Suicide Prevention Month provides some time to focus even more on this important topic.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and the CDC have pages dedicated to suicide prevention and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. My blog will be full of information and resources all month long, and I’m hoping to create a space where people can not only learn about suicide prevention, but what role they play in preventing it.
Even though there’s never a wrong time to talk about mental health and suicide prevention these awareness days, weeks and months exist to bring us together and find ways to educate and support one another. We all have a part to play in suicide prevention, and it’s important to find how we can help support ourselves or others as we continue the fight against suicide.