People who follow me on Twitter probably know that I have a habit of reading every obituary in the Sunday paper, trying to pick out the people who took their own life. I don’t do it for entertainment; I do it to see if there’s any breakthrough in the willingness to confront an epidemic head-on by acknowledging it exists. Last Sunday, for example, one obituary for a 15-year old said only, the youngster “chose to be with the Lord.”
This is National Suicide Prevention Week, something you’re not likely to hear about because the journalism community generally believes that talk of suicide encourages suicide. But they give me this blog to make a difference…. so…
Here are some statistics, courtesy of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
-Over 34,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
-In 2007 (latest available data), there were 34,598 reported suicide deaths.
-Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the United States (28,628 suicides).
-Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.
-A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the United States.
-Every day, approximately 90 Americans take their own life.
-Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
-There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.
-There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides for every suicide death.
-Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old.
-Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
-Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled (from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1955 to 21.3 in 1977). Among females aged 15-24, the rate more than doubled during this period (from 2.0 to 5.2). The youth suicide rate generally leveled off during the 1980s and early 1990s, and since the mid-1990s has been steadily decreasing.
-Between 1980-1996, the suicide rate for African-American males aged 15-19 has also doubled.
-Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.
-The suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
-The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
-The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75.
-About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
-Six to 9 percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
-More than 30 percent of patients suffering from major depression report suicidal ideation.
-Risk factors for suicide among the elderly include: a previous attempt, the presence of a mental illness, the presence of a physical illness, social isolation (some studies have shown this is especially so in older males who are recently widowed) and access to means, such as the availability of firearms in the home.
-Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
-Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year, or more than 24 million people.
-More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (17 million), cancer (12 million) and HIV/AIDS (1 million).
-About 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime. Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
-Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.
Alcohol and Suicide
-Ninety-six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives.
-Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides.
-Approximately 7 percent of those with alcohol dependence will die by suicide.
Firearms and Suicide
A-lthough most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for “protection” or “self defense,” 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
-Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
-Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
-Firearms account for 50 percent of all suicides.
Medical Illness and Suicide
-Patients who desire an early death during a serious or terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable depressive condition.
-People with AIDS have a suicide risk up to 20 times that of the general population.
And here are some resources in Minnesota.