Suicide Statistics: An Overview

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“…My life is over
My death must occur
There is no hope
My heart is torn apart
My tears overflowing
How can I live ?
How can I die ?
How can I leave ?
Will I know that I’ve hurt them ?
Will I know how they feel ?
I feel sorrow for them
I feel sorrow for me…”

Poetry Excerpts From Depression And Thoughts Of suicide; From Crisis To Cured, by Melody Clark

For centuries, suicide was not considered a psychopathological act, but typically was condemned by religions and states as a sin or a crime until very recent times.

On the surface, suicide appears to be a personal matter; a tragic outcome restricted to an individual. However, within a community, suicide is a symptom of societal pressures and its measure is one indicator of mental health within a population.

Furthermore, the lingering effects of someone taking their life can devastate the lives of people who knew the “victim.” For these reasons, suicide must be seen as a public health issue.

Social stigma and prejudice are common. Every human being is taught from childhood that suicidal people are shameful, weak, selfish or manipulative.None of these ideas are true. No scientific study has ever confirmed that a significant proportion of suicidal people have these qualities.

Suicide statistics and facts:

  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 (both sexes).
  • Suicide attempts are up to 20 times more frequent than completed suicides.
  • Worldwide, about 1 million persons die of suicide each year, including more than 30,000 in the United States and 120,000 in Europe.
  • Between 1952 and 1995, the incidence of suicide among adolescents and young adults nearly tripled.
  • mental disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90% of all cases of suicide. However, suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis (e.g. loss of a loved one, employment, honour).
  • Depression is present in 50 percent of all suicides, and those suffering from depression are at 25 times greater risk for suicide than the general population.In addition, older persons with depression are more likely to commit suicide than younger persons who are depressed.
  • There is one suicide every 17.2 minutes, or nearly 84 suicides per day in the United States alone.
  • Suicide by firearms is the most common method, accounting for 61% of all suicides.
  • Guns are the method used in 65 percent of male teen suicides and 47 percent of female teen suicides.
  • More people die from suicide than from homicide. In 1997, there were 1.5 times as many suicides as homicides.
  • Suicide is the 9th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 1.4% of total deaths.
  • Suicide has no characteristic genetic quality. suicidal patterns in a family are a result of other factors and may result from a belief in the myth which facilitates suicidal actions.
  • With one exception (China), in all countries the male rates are higher than the female rates.
  • The average male female ratio is 1:3,6.
  • For the North American countries the ratio is 1 : 4,2.
  • For the South American Countries the ratio is 1 : 3,2.
  • For Australia and New-Zealand the ratio is 1 : 4,0.
  • For the European countries 1 : 3,6.
  • For the Asian countries 1: 2,6.
  • Four times as many men as women commit suicide, but young women attempt suicide three times more frequently than young men.
  • A woman commits suicide every 90 minutes in the U.S., but it is estimated that one woman attempts suicide every 78 seconds.
  • The suicide rate for women ages 15-24 has doubled since 1950, while the rate for younger girls ages 10-14 has nearly tripled since 1980.
  • Many persons who have attempted or committed suicide would not have been diagnosed as mentally ill.
  • Women are more likely than men to have stronger social supports, to feel that their relationships are deterrents to committing suicide, and to seek psychiatric and medical intervention.
  • Comprising only 13 percent of the U.S. population, individuals ages 65 and older accounted for 19 percent of all suicide deaths in 1997.
  • Although many effective treatments exist, suicide in women remains a much underrecognized, underdiagnosed, and undertreated problem.
  • The highest rate is for white men ages 85 and older: 64.9 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1997, about 6 times the national U.S. rate of 10.6 per 100,000.
  • Studies of persons who have committed suicide indicate that 50% have sought medical help within six months of their action.
  • Over 72% of all suicides are committed by white men.
  • 20% of high school students report contemplating suicide
  • There is a significant danger within the first 90 days after a suicidal person is released from hospitalization.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 19 years.
  • 80 % of all suicidal persons leave clues.
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides to one completion.
  • Males are more violent and choose more violent -and more succesful- means of suicide.
  • More women than men report a history of attempted suicide, with a ratio of 2 to 1.
  • Almost all people who kill themselves have a diagnosable mental or substance use disorder; the majority have more than one.
  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine use, and separation or divorce.
  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in youth are depression, alcohol or other drug use disorder, and aggressive or disruptive behaviors.
  • Every year, 30,000 Americans take their own lives by committing suicide. At least 15% of people with depression complete the act of suicide, but an even higher proportion will attempt it.
  • Every day, 14 young people (ages 15 to 24) commit suicide, or approximately 1 every 100 minutes.
  • People with AIDS have a suicide risk up to 20 times that of the general population.
  • The majority of suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress that need to be addressed, and not just a harmless bid for attention
  • The suicide rate for all children (10-14) has more than doubled over the last 15 years.
  • Fifty-three percent of young people who commit suicide abuse substances.
  • More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.
  • Alcoholism is a factor in about 30% of all completed suicides.
  • 18% of alcoholics die by suicide, 87% of these deaths are males. 96% of alcoholics who commit suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives.
  • Most teen suicides are impulsive, with little or no planning, and 70 percent occur in the victims’ homes.
  • research has consistently shown that about 75 percent of suicidal people will visit a physician within the month before they kill themselves.
  • After a suicide attempt, a person may be able to manage his/her life appropriately and engage in no further suicidal action.
  • 95% of people who attempt suicide don’t really want to die. They want an end to the emotional pain, and suicide is viewed as the only alternative.

Thousands of books have tried to answer the question of why people kill themselves. To summarize them in three words: to stop pain… Sometimes this pain is physical, as in chronic or terminal illness; more often it is emotional. People usually attempt suicide to block unbearable emotional pain, which is caused by a wide variety of problems. In any case, suicide is not a random or senseless act, but an effective, if extreme, solution.

For the individual who commits suicide, the act usually represents a solution to a problem or life circumstance that the individual fears will only become worse. Believing that their suffering will continue or intensify, suicidal individuals can envision no option but death.Suicide represents an escape or release from that pain.

Most suicidal people give warning signs in the hope that they will be rescued, because they are intent on stopping their emotional pain, not on dying…

There are hundreds of modest steps we can take to improve our response to the suicidal patient and to make it easier for them to seek help. Taking these modest steps can save many lives and reduce a great deal of human suffering…

References

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  • Alexender, V. (1998). In the wake of suicide: Stories of the people left behind. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brent, D.A., Perper, J.A., Moritz, G., Allman, C., Roth, C. Schweers, J., Balach, L., & Baugher, M. (1993). Psychiatric risk for suicide: A case control study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 32, 521-529.
  • Chance, S. (1992). Stronger Than Death: When Suicide Touches Your Life. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Fernández. (1997). Postura clínica ante el suicidio. Madrid. En: Revista Psicopatología. Vol. 17. # 2.
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  • Linehan, M.M. (1997). Behavioral treatments of suicidal behaviors: Definitional obfuscation and treatment outcomes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 836, 302-328.
  • Moscicki, E. K. (1997). Identification of suicide risk factors using epidemiologic studies. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, 499- 517.
  • Peruzzi,N. & Bongar,B.(1999) .Assessing Risk for Completed Suicide in Patients With major depression: Psychologists’ View of Critical Factors.In Professional Psychology: research and Practice, Vol. 30, No. 6.
  • Pearson, J. L., & Conwell, Y. (1996). Suicide and aging: International perspectives. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
  • Potter LB, Powell KP, Kachur SP.(1995).suicide prevention from a public health perspective. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior. 1995; 25(1):82-91.
  • Rihmer, Z. (1996). Strategies of suicide prevention: Focus on health care. Journal of Affective Disorders, 39, 83-91.
  • Rosenberg ML, Mercy JA, Potter LB.(1999). Firearms and Suicide. [Editorial]. NEJM 1999;341(21):1609-1611.
  • Shneidman, E. S., Farberow, N. L., & Litman, R. E. (1970). The psychology of suicide. New York: Aronson.
  • Stoff, D. M., & Mann, J. J. (Eds.) (1997). The neurobiology of suicide: From the bench to the clinic. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 836.
  • Zenere FJ, Lazarus PJ. (1997).The decline of youth suicidal behavior in an urban multicultural public school system following the introduction of a suicide prevention and intervention program. Suicide Life Threat Behav, 1997; 27(4): 387-402.

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