CDC Highlights Importance of Mental Health as Suicide Rates Rise

Gina Kokosky, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Monday, September 10th, 2018
World Suicide Prevention Day, held each year on September 10, brings awareness to mental health issues around the globe, with over 300 activities in 70 countries reported last year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Suicide prevention is becoming increasingly important, as rates are rising across the United States, with middle aged adults, adolescents, and men at the highest risk for becoming victims, according to a report from The Cleveland Clinic.2

The CDC reports that suicide rates have risen in almost every state, with 45,000 Americans dying of suicide in 2016. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide rates continue to rise, while other leading causes remain constant, according to the agency's Vital Signs report.3

“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, CDC Principal Deputy Director. “From individuals and communities to employers and healthcare professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide.”3

The CDC examined data from 1999-2016 to find trends in suicide and discovered that over 50% of suicide victims had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Some factors found to contribute to suicide risk are relationship struggles, substance abuse and misuse, physical health issues, and stress associated with a job, money, housing, or legal trouble, according to the CDC.3

Nearly every state saw a jump in suicide rates, with increase rates ranging from around 6% in Delaware, to 57% in North Dakota. Suicide rates were found to have increased more than 30% in 25 states, according to the CDC report.3

Those with the highest risk include middle aged adults, especially those older than 60, and adolescents between ages 15 and 24. Men are 3-5 times more likely to die of suicide than women are, though suicide rates among women are rising faster. Other at-risk groups include Native Americans and Native Alaskans, veterans, those undergoing a health crisis, those with access to firearms, those with a family history of suicide or mental illness, and those being incarcerated.2

The CDC calls on all members of society, including the government, public health, health care, employers, education, media, and other parts of the community, to help prevent suicide through addressing the range of factors that contribute to it and approaching it as a public health crisis, in the report.3

The CDC suggests helping prevent suicide by being aware of the warning signs and able to identify those at risk; limiting the access of deadly means, such as medication or firearms, to those at risk; and using the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help—1-800-273-TALK (8255).1

Health care providers can help prevent suicide by identifying patients who may be at risk, monitoring the mental health of at-risk patients—especially those with mental health prescriptions, collaborating with other members of the health care team, making patients aware of suicide prevention resources, and being understanding and encouraging toward patients. 

  1. World Suicide Prevention Day. World Health Organization’s website: Accessed September 10, 2018. 
  2. As U.S. Suicide Rates Climb, Older Adults at Risk. Cleveland Clinic website. Published June 19, 2018. Accessed September 10, 2018. 
  3. Suicide rates rising across the US. Vital Signs. CDC website. Published June 7, 2018.  Accessed September 10, 2018.

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