June 1st, 2016

Report: Suicide deaths on the rise

Suicide deaths in the U.S. have increased from 1999 to 2014 for both genders aged 10-74, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Suicide is increasing against the backdrop of generally declining mortality and is currently one of the 10 leading causes of death overall,” reads the report. “This report highlights increases in suicide mortality from 1999 through 2014 and shows that while the rate increased almost steadily over the period, the average annual percent increase was greater for the second half of this period (2006–2014) than for the first half (1999–2006).”

The increase follows a “nearly consistent decline” between 1986-1999, according to the report.

A few major findings from the report are listed below – note that this study represents a broad look at lives lost for complex reasons and situations that are not specifically examined or explained in this report.

“I know that many in the prevention and mental health community are thinking and working hard to try to reverse these trends right now,” said Sally Curtin, MA, a lead author of the study and demographic/health statistician at the CDC National Center for Health Statistics. “We hope the information presented in this report helps to quantify this public health issue to assist them in their efforts.”

According to the report:

The age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S. increased 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population, with the pace of increase greater after 2006.

Increases in suicide rates occurred for males and females in all but the oldest age group (75 and over).

Middle-aged females and males (aged 54-64) had the largest number of suicide deaths and were among the largest percent increases since 1999. “For females, those middle-aged had the highest suicide rates in 2014 (9.8 per 100,000) and the second highest percent increase for females since 1999 (63 percent),” Curtin said. “For males, middle-aged men had the highest percent increase since 1999 (43 percent).”

Percent increases in rates were greatest for females aged 10–14, and for males, those aged 45–64. “Our report shows that rates increase by 200 percent for females 10-14 (the highest percent increase for females) and by 37 percent for males 10-14,” Curtin said, noting that the rate for young females is much lower than at other ages. “However, any time there are percent increases like this, people should take note. In addition, we know that suicide rates are just the tip of the iceberg in this public health issue. For every suicide death, there are many, many more episodes of self-harm and suicide ideation and attempts.”

The most frequent suicide method in 2014 for males involved the use of firearms (55.4 percent), while poisoning was the most frequent method for females (34.1 percent).

Percentages of suicides attributable to suffocation (hangings, strangulation, and suffocation) increased for both sexes between 1999 and 2014. “While not the leading method for either group, more research and prevention is needed to address this rising trend,” said Curtin.

Findings from this report demonstrate the need to focus attention and resources on suicide prevention, said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, Ph.D., vice president of research for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a New York-based organization that supports research, education, and advocacy to prevent suicide and help those affected by suicide.

“Understanding suicidal behavior means taking into account mental health and substance use, risk factors such as chronic conditions or pain, early trauma and current stressors,” she said. “Raising awareness about taking care of mental health and learning about and using effective coping strategies are important steps toward reducing suicide.”

By Rivkela Brodsky

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