Suicide in the United States is at a 30-year high, and experts are studying statistics to find explanations for the gradual but steady increase. The president of the Child Mind institute, Harold Koplewicz, expressed his concern at the growing number of self-inflicted deaths in America to Salon.
“It’s very sobering and disappointing. We’re not making progress. We’re actually going in the wrong direction.”
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of 42,772 people in 2014. The suicide rate for 2014 was 13 in 100,000. That is an increase of 24 percent since 1999 when the rate was 10.5 per 100,000, according to the CDC. The rate has been gradually increasing since 1999. For example, in 2013, there were 41,149 suicides, leading to an overall rate of 12.6 per 100,000. That was one every 13 minutes, according to the CDC.
Suicide is often considered a mental health issue. Jeffrey Borenstein, the CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, pointed out to Salon that people suffering from psychiatric conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, are always at the highest risk of taking their own life, but the overall increases are of great concern.
“It’s a very important report, and the results are very striking. The rate has increased so much since 1999, especially during the second half of that period. If this was a finding of some other problem that results in death, it would be on the front page of every newspaper. People would be pressuring the politicians to come up with solutions. Hopefully, this [report] would be a wake-up call and a call to action on the part of our country.”
Studying the trends over time since 1900, the suicide rate has ranged from 9.8 in 1957 to 17.4 in 1932, according to Hacienda Publishing. When studying the situation from a historical perspective, it is easy to see that suicide increases dramatically in economic hardships such as depressions, recessions, and joblessness. But is money trouble the only correlation?
Suicide is more than just a mental health issue, according to Kristin Holland, a behavioral scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Holland told Salon about two strong correlations. Kristin too cites the correlation between people taking their own lives and the economy but also sees a correlation between the taking of one’s own life and the prevalence of substance abuse within society.
“Many people view suicide as a mental health problem, but many people who die of suicide do not have a mental health problem. It’s a public health problem. We do not have enough resources directed at suicide prevention, especially compared to funding behind other leading causes of death.”
Suicide rates also show a strong relationship to the homicide rates. Generally, the homicide rate is about one-half to two-thirds that of the suicide rate, and the two increase and decrease in at least a rough correlation with one another. One could glean from these statistics that when in distress, Americans are significantly more likely to harm themselves than others.
Suicide is far more common for males than females. The CDC reports the rate per 100,000 males is 20.7, compared to 5.8 for females. Even so, the rate of suicide among females has increased by 45 percent since 1999 compared to an increase among males of only 16 percent. Method also varies among genders. Males prefer firearms, while women often choose to poison. However, suffocation deaths are up among both genders.
The suicide rate is the result of mental health issues, social issues, economic issues, and substance abuse issues, according to the experts cited. More people die by their own hand than are killed in car crashes and by accidental overdose, although both those numbers are significant as well. Overall, the number of accidental deaths still far exceeds those related to deliberately taking one’s own life.
The suicide rate in the United States is very alarming, and solutions are elusive, even for the experts.
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