Facts and Statistics

Suicide kills more than 36,000 Americans each year. Suicide is currently the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. Of those that completed suicide, 4,000 were between the ages of 15 and 24. A person dies by suicide about every 15 minutes in the United States. An attempt is estimated to be made about once every 40 seconds.

Suicide is currently the 9th leading cause of death in North Dakota. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in North Dakota for those between the ages of 15 to 24.

More people survive suicide attempts than actually die. They are often seriously injured and need medical care. Approximately 376,000 people are treated with self-inflicted injuries each year. Many more people are unaccounted for as they do not seek medical treatment. The number of suicide attempts is hard to estimate for that reason.

Men are more likely than women to die by suicide; however, women attempt suicide more often than men. Men tend to use more lethal means when attempting suicide, thus complete suicide more often. Men tend to use firearms and strangulation. Women tend to use pills to overdose or cutting themselves. These methods tend to have a larger window of time for help to arrive and save a life.

Older adults are considered at high risk for suicide. White males, 85 and older have the highest suicide rate. Seventy-five percent of elderly adults visited a physician the month before their suicide; most often, complaining of physical aches and pains.

Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness at the time of their death. Depression and substance use disorders were the top two disorders noted. An estimated 15 million people in the United States suffer every day from depression. The World Health Organization estimates depression to be the number one cause of disability in the United States.  More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined.

Talk therapy has been shown to reduce rates of suicide. Two types shown to be effective are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). It is important to note that therapy is often a very personal thing and what works for one person may not work for another. However when people get effective treatment, 80 percent are treated successfully. If treatment isn't working, talk to your mental health professionals. Medication also can be an effective part of treatment and should be discussed with your physician and mental health team.

 Common myths and facts

Myth: Most  suicides occur with little or no warning.

Fact: Most people communicate warning signs of how they are feeling. Warning signs may be direct statements, emotional reactions or behaviors.

Myth: Talking about suicide with someone may give them the idea to complete suicide.

Fact:  Talking about suicide does not create nor increase the risk. The best way to identify those thinking of suicide is to ask them directly.          

Myth: Non-fatal attemps are only attention-getting behaviors.

Fact: For some people suicidal behaviors are serious invitations to others to help them live. Rather than punishing or reprimanding someone who has attempted, offer help and alternative solutions. All suicidal behaviors should be taken seriously.

Myth: A suicidal person clearly wants to die.

Fact: Most suicidal people are ambivalent about their intentions right up to the point of dying. Very few are absolutely determined to end their life. Most are open to an intervention, even a forced one.

Myth: Only a professional can help a suicidal person.

Fact:  Long-term care should be provided by a professional. However, it takes everyone knowing the warning signs and risk factors of suicide and immediate intervention to help save lives.    

Myth: Just because they talk about suicide does not mean they will go through with it.

Fact: Almost everyone who completes suicide leaves clues or gives warning that they are thinking of suicide. All  suicide threats should be taken seriously, no matter how casually said.

Information adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Marine Corps Community Services.