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According to the National Institute of Health1, around 30,000 people die by suicide each year in the United States. More people die by suicide each year than by homicide.  Suicide is tragic, but it is often preventable. Knowing the risk factors about suicide and who is at risk can help reduce the suicide rate.

Who is at risk for suicide?

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities are at risk for suicide. But people most at risk for suicide tend to share certain characteristics. Some risk factors about suicide are:

Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder

A prior suicide attempt

Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse

Family history of suicide

Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse

Having guns or other firearms in the home

Incarceration, being in prison or jail

Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or media figures.

Suicide is not a normal response to stress. It is however, a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention.

There are significant gender differences with respect to suicide.  Men are more likely to die by suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. Men are more likely to use deadlier methods, such as firearms or suffocation. Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide by poisoning.

There are also significant age differences about suicide that you should know.  Children and young people are at risk for suicide. Year after year, suicide remains one of the top three leading causes of death for young people ages 15 to 24.

Other facts related to suicide include older adults are at risk for suicide, too. In fact, white males age 85 and older consistently have the highest suicide rate than any other age and ethnic group.

Minorities also differ on suicide rates.  Among ethnicities, American Indians and Alaska Natives tend to have the highest rate of suicides, followed by non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanics tend to have the lowest rate of suicides, while African Americans tend to have the second lowest rate.

Can these facts about suicide be prevented?

Effective suicide prevention is based on sound research. Programs that work take into account these facts surrounding suicide, such as people’s risk factors, and promote interventions that are appropriate to specific groups of people. For example, research about suicide has shown that mental and substance abuse disorders are risk factors for suicide. Therefore, many programs about suicide focus on treating these disorders in addition to addressing suicide risk specifically:

Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” effectively reduces thoughts about suicide risk. One type is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences by training them to consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise.

Some medications may also help reduce risks about suicide.  The combination of psychotherapy and medications has proven to be effective in treating depression.

90% of patients diagnosed with depression in Mental Health Resources Intensive Outpatient Program start treatment with thoughts about suicide.  Our IOP has been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression and thoughts about suicide.

What should I do if someone I know is thinking about suicide?

If you know someone who is thoughts about suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help by calling our office for an immediate appointment or by going the nearest hospital emergency room, or call 911. Remove any access he or she may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications.

1) U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES National Institutes of Health NIH Publication No. TR 11-7697