About Suicide

  • Worldwide there are more deaths due to suicide than to accidents, homicides and war combined.
  • Over 38,000 people in the U.S. die by suicide every year.
  • Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the 3rd leading cause of death in youth.
  • Every day, approximately 105 Americans take their own life, and 2,370 more attempt to do so.
  • A person dies by suicide about every 13.7 minutes in the U.S. An attempt is estimated to be made once every 29-32 seconds.
  • In the U.S. in 2010 (the latest year for which rates are available), the suicide rate among men was 3.7 male deaths by suicide for each female death by suicide.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three female attempts for each male attempt.
  • Firearms are the most frequent method of suicide among adults in the U.S.
  • Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness at the time of death. The most common diagnoses are depression and drug and/or alcohol abuse.
  • Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all suicide deaths.
  • Early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses appears to be the best way to prevent suicide.
  • Certain personality disorders, such as borderline and antisocial personality disorders, appear to carry high risk for suicide. Impulsivity also appears to be a risk factor for suicide.
  • Between 20 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Although the majority of people who die by suicide have not made a previous attempt, a serious suicide attempt is a clear risk factor for suicide death.
  • Suicidal individuals often talk about suicide directly or indirectly using statements like, “My family would be better off without me.” Sometimes they talk as if they are saying goodbye or going away, and may arrange to put their affairs in order.
  • Other signs that may be exhibited by an individual contemplating suicide include giving away articles they value, paying off debts or changing a will.

Other signs that may be exhibited by an individual contemplating suicide include giving away articles they value, paying off debts or changing a will.

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and the third leading cause of death among all youth 15-24 years old. In the U.S., only accidents and homicides claim more young lives.
  • Over 4,000 people aged 15-24 die by suicide each year in the United States. Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled (from 6.3 per 100.000 in 1955 to 21.3 in 1977). Among females aged 15-24, the rate more than doubled during this period (from 2.0 to 5.2). The youth suicide rate generally leveled off during the 1980s and early 1990s and since the mid-1990s, it has been steadily decreasing.
  • Among young people aged 15-24, males die by suicide almost six times more frequently than females. In 2010 (the latest year for which rates are available), the suicide rate among youth ages 15-24, translates to one young person dying every two minutes.
  • Over 90 percent of youth who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness at the time of death; in about half such cases, the psychiatric illness was present, although often unrecognized, for two years or more. The most common diagnoses among youth are depression, substance abuse and conduct disorders.

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It can be hard to remember how it felt to be a teen, caught in that gray area between childhood and adulthood. Sure, it’s a time of tremendous possibility but it can also be a period of great confusion and anxiety. There’s pressure to fit in socially, to perform academically, and to act responsibly. There’s the awakening of sexual feelings, a growing self-identity, and a need for autonomy that often conflicts with the rules and expectations set by others.

A teen with an adequate support network of friends, family, religious affiliations, peer groups, or extracurricular activities may have an outlet to deal with everyday frustrations. But many teens don’t believe they have that, and feel disconnected and isolated from family and friends. These teens are at increased risk for suicide.

Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:

  • a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, approximately 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
  • feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
  • feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression (a teen, for example, who experiences repeated failures at school, who is overwhelmed by violence at home, or who is isolated from peers is likely to experience such feelings)
  • a previous suicide attempt
  • a family history of depression or suicide (depressive illnesses may have a genetic component, so some teens may be predisposed to suffer major depression)
  • physical or sexual abuse
  • lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
  • dealing with homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
  • Depression affects more than 19 million American adults aged 18 and over each year, representing nearly 10 percent of American adults.
  • More American adults suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined.
  • About 15 percent of the population develops clinical depression at some time in their life. Depression will affect one in 10 men and one in four women.
  • Symptoms of depression include:
    • sadness or “down” mood
    • loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
    • poor appetite or overeating
    • trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
    • feeling tired or having little energy
    • feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or guilt
    • trouble concentrating
    • moving or speaking very slowly, or the opposite, being fidgety or restless
    • thoughts of being better off dead or of hurting oneself in some way
  • Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Current treatment includes medication, psychotherapy or some combination of the two.
  • Fewer than half of all Americans consider depression to be a health problem and more than two in five believe it is a sign of personal weakness.
  • Over 60 percent of people who die by suicide are estimated to suffer from major
    depression, with no other psychiatric or physical illness. Thirty percent have alcoholism, and half of those with alcoholism have depression as well.
  • Certain intense emotional or affective states may suggest a suicide crisis in individuals who suffer from depression. These include intense desperation, hopelessness, rage, abandonment, self-hatred or anxiety.
  • Almost two million Americans currently suffer from bipolar disorder (manic-depressive
    illness), in which episodes of depression alternate or co-exist with periods of mania. This mood disorder carries a high risk of suicide.
  • Approximately 20 percent of all patients with bipolar disorder have their first episode during adolescence.

From the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

Suicide among teens often occurs following a stressful life event, such as a perceived failure at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict.

A teen who is thinking about suicide might:

  • talk about suicide or death in general
  • talk about “going away”
  • talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
  • pull away from friends or family
  • lose the desire to take part in favorite things or activities
  • have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
  • experience changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or driving too fast, for example)

Research helps determine which factors can be modified to help prevent suicide and which interventions are appropriate for specific groups of people. Before being put into practice, prevention programs should be tested through research to determine their safety and effectiveness. For example, because research has shown that mental and substance-abuse disorders are major risk factors for suicide, many programs also focus on treating these disorders as well as addressing suicide risk directly.

Studies showed that a type of psychotherapy called cognitive therapy reduced the rate of repeated suicide attempts by 50 percent during a year of follow-up. A previous suicide attempt is among the strongest predictors of subsequent suicide, and cognitive therapy helps suicide attempters consider alternative actions when thoughts of self-harm arise.

Specific kinds of psychotherapy may be helpful for specific groups of people. For example, a treatment called dialectical behavior therapy reduced suicide attempts by half, compared with other kinds of therapy, in people with borderline personality disorder (a serious disorder of emotion regulation).

The medication clozapine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for suicide prevention in people with schizophrenia. Other promising medications and psychosocial treatments for suicidal people are being tested.

Since research shows that older adults and women who die by suicide are likely to have seen a primary care provider in the year before death, improving primary-care providers’ ability to recognize and treat risk factors may help prevent suicide among these groups. Improving outreach to men at risk is a major challenge in need of investigation.

If you think someone is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Eliminate access to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including unsupervised access to medications.

(from National Institute of Mental Health – NIMH)

If you are thinking about suicide, please take a step back.
Getting help is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign of STRENGTH.

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