Suicide has tragic consequences, and a new report has some sobering statistics showing just how prevalent suicide really is. In the past year, 1 in every 13 young adults has considered suicide, according to government data.
The report comes from Rachel Lipari and other researchers at the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They released their data online June 16th. While data about actual suicides may be easier to obtain, the agency wanted to dig deeper and see how prevalent suicidal thoughts are in American youth. To do so, the researchers used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), which included information about suicidal thoughts and behavior and was broken down by state.
Previous studies have suggested that more people attempt suicide and survive than those that actually die, and many consider suicide without following through on their dark thoughts. Statistics show that throughout the past year, out of every 31 adults who attempted suicide, one actually died. Statistics also showed that more young adults, aged 18 to 25, seriously considered suicide than other age groups. While 2.7 percent of adults over the age of 50 and 4.0 percent aged 26 to 49 considered suicide, 7.5 percent of those aged 18 to 25 seriously considered ending their lives.
That 7.5 percent of suicidal youth, or 1 in 13, means that 2.6 million young Americans have considered ending their lives in one year alone. These potential deaths are preventable, with the right intervention. The rates in the year 2013-2014 were similar to the rate of suicidal thoughts in a 2012-2013 report.
Not only did the report give an idea of overall rate of suicidal thoughts, but the data also showed variation by state. At the highest end was New Hampshire, where 10.3 percent of young adults considered suicide in the past year. At the low end was Texas, with 6.2 percent of youth considering suicide. Rounding out the top ten states with the highest rates of youth suicidal thoughts were Utah, Montana, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Oregon, Nebraska, Alaska, and Indiana. Rounding out the lower end were the District of Columbia, Kansas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, Connecticut, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Florida. However, even a rate of suicidal thoughts at the low of 6.15 percent is unnecessarily high. For most states, the rates were similar to the 2012-2013 report, with the exception of Hew Hampshire which saw an almost two percent increase in suicidal thoughts.
There were no clear geographical patterns to the high and low suicide rates, and no obvious reasons for the wide differences from one state to another. The differences could be due to economic issues in one state versus another, prevalence of depression or substance abuse, differences in family fragmentation, and different levels of access to treatment from state to state.
Whatever the reasons, most would agree the rate of suicidal thoughts is just too high. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in youth, and it is preventable. Even if those contemplating suicide do not go through with it, it still signals the prevalence of depression or other mental health issues in this age group. Those at SAMHSA call for greater outreach effort to youth, letting them know that help is available.
There are some warning signs that may indicate someone you care about is contemplating suicide. These include extreme mood swings; anxious, agitated, or reckless behavior; isolation and withdrawing from social interaction; rage and talks of revenge; sleeping too much or too little; increase in use of drugs or alcohol; talking about feelings of hopelessness and not having a reason to live; talking about feeling trapped and being in unbearable pain; talking about being a burden to family or friends; talking about wanting to die; and actively seeking out ways to end their life, such as buying a gun or searching online for suicide methods. Other warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide include a preoccupation with death; losing interest in things they care about; visiting or calling people to say goodbye; setting their affairs in order; giving away prized possessions; and suddenly seeming happier and calmer. If you believe someone you know is contemplating suicide, urge them to see a doctor or psychologist for help. The concerned friend or the one contemplating suicide can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. They can then receive help from the nearest crisis center.