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Understanding Suicide Statistics Leads to Better Prevention

September, 2018

Fashion designer Kate Spade and TV chef Anthony Bourdain recently added their names to a grim and growing list: The people who will commit suicide in the United States this year.

In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, nearly 45,000 people committed suicide, making it the tenth leading cause of death in America and the second-leading cause of death among young people, ages 10-34.

All but one state showed higher suicide rates. Michigan ranked 34th nationally for its 1,364 annual suicides, up from a reported 974 suicides in 1999. That’s a 40% increase compared to a 25% increase nationwide in the same time period.

Experts believe the 2016 numbers were even higher, in part because stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting.

“There is a lot of stigma attached to suicide,” says Susan Davis, LPC, LBSW. “People don’t want to reach out for help. Family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, and others often feel afraid of the subject. Data collection methods that can lead to better prevention are swept up in this stigma.”

“Suicide victims are much more than numbers and names on a list,” Susan says. “They are people with families and friends who loved them. But understanding the statistics behind who commits suicide, and how, can help prevent other loved ones from dying and other families and friends from grieving.”

The following data is taken from the CDC Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2016, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (https://afsp.org), the National Institute of Mental Health (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml) and other sources, as indicated.

Suicide by Ethnicity, Age and Gender

  • The annual age-adjusted suicide rate in the U.S. is 13.42 per 100,000 individuals.
    • Kalamazoo County is slightly below the national rate at 12.1.
    • Calhoun County is slightly above the national rate at 14.4.
  • Nationally, white residents had the highest suicide rate, followed closely by American Indians and Alaska Natives. Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders. African Americans have much lower rates.
  • Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults. But their rates are also rising at an alarming pace.
  • Men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than women.
  • White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016.
  • Middle-aged men and women combined have the highest suicide rate.
  • The highest rate among men is age 65+.
  • The highest rate among women is 45 to 64.
  • In Michigan, 88% of suicides were by white residents and 80% were by men; 69.7% were by white men.

Suicide in the LGBTQ Community

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health (https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ):

  • LGBTQ persons are at higher risk for suicide than heterosexuals.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for LGBTQ people aged 10–24.
  • LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide and have suicidal thoughts.
  • Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.
  • LGBTQ persons who faced rejection after coming out to their families were more than eight times more likely to have attempted suicide than someone who was accepted by their family after revealing their sexual orientation.

According to results of the CDC’s National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of high school students (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/ss6509a1.htm):

  • 42.8% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students had seriously considered suicide, compared to 14.8% of heterosexual students.
  • 38.2% of LGBTQ students and 27.9% of students who were not sure of their sexuality had made plans about how they would attempt suicide, compared to 11.9% of heterosexual students.

Suicide Methods

  • Guns accounted for 51% of all suicide deaths in 2016, even though they were used in only 5% of suicide attempts.
  • Nearly 90% of suicide attempts with a gun resulted in a fatality.
  • Suffocation (which includes hanging) accounted for about 25% of suicide deaths; drug or poison overdose was 18%.
  • Among males, the most common method of suicide was firearm (56.6%). Among females, the most common methods were poisoning (33.0%) and firearm (32.1%).

Suicide Attempts

Based on the 2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health, an estimated 9.8 million adults over age 18 reported having serious thoughts about suicide and 1.3 million adults attempted suicide. Among those who attempted suicide, one million made suicide plans; 300,000 made no plan.

Women are 1.2 times more likely to attempt suicide than men, but men are more likely to die, due in part to their use of more lethal means.

Based on the CDC’s 2015 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey:

  • 8.6% of youth in grades 9-12 reported making at least one suicide attempt in the previous 12 months.
  • Girls attempted suicide twice as often as boys (11.6% vs. 5.5%).
  • Teens of Hispanic origin reported the highest rate of attempt (11.3%), especially Hispanic females (15.1%), compared with white students (6.8%) and white females (9.8%).