Suicide Rates Are Up, And Middle-Aged Women Are Most At Risk

Only half of suicide victims are known to have a mental health condition.

suicide rates are up 30 percent since 1999
Marjan Apostolovic / Shutterstock

Only half of suicide victims are known to have a mental health condition.

Suicide rates in the United States are up 30 percent since 1999, and the group at most risk is middle-aged women, NBC News is reporting.

According to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly every demographic group and age group in the country, with one exception (more on that in the next paragraph), experienced an increase in suicides in the past two decades. Similarly, every state except one also had an increase in suicides.

The only age group that did not have an increase in suicides is adults over age 75. The only state that didn’t have an increase in suicides is Nevada, but the Silver State already had one of the highest suicide rates in the country. In the 17-year-period studied by the CDC, Nevada actually had a decrease of 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the hardest-hit states are in the West and Upper Midwest, with increases between 38 and 58 percent. Those states include Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, among others. Meanwhile, some of the least hard-hit states, with increases between 6 and 18 percent, include Arizona, New Mexico, and California, among others.

The demographic group with the highest increase in suicide rates is middle-aged adults, middle-aged women in particular, says CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat.

“Middle-aged adults had the largest number of suicides and a particularly high increase in suicide rates. These findings are disturbing.”

While depression is almost certainly a leading risk factor when it comes to suicide, almost half of suicide victims are not known to have a diagnosis of mental illness. However, that could be due in large part to the stigma attached to seeking mental health treatment. Another problem is the fact that mental health treatment can be difficult to access.

Dr. Jack Rozel, president-elect of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry, says that even someone in a position such as his had a hard time getting help for a friend in need.

“I think I am reasonably well-connected. About a year ago a friend of mine reached out to me. He was feeling more sad, more anxious, than usual. It took me days to get him an appointment with someone. It’s a problem.”

Another problem is that there’s no one quick-and-easy solution to mental health problems, and many individuals give up when their first attempt at treatment doesn’t work.

“The first medication doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to find a second or a third. Or a therapist — for whatever reason you don’t connect, you don’t link. It puts people in a very tough spot.”

The CDC says the best advice the agency can give with regards to suicide prevention comes down to individuals: if you believe someone is at risk of suicide, do whatever you can to get them into the help they need.