According to the American Association of Suicidology, someone dies by suicide in the United States every 13.7 minutes. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 people who die by suicide had a diagnosable mental disorder, yet only 3 out of 10 people who died by suicide received mental health services in the year before they died. Furthermore, the official data collected in 2011 for the U.S.A. indicates that the population at greatest risk are Caucasian, middle-aged (45-64yrs old) men. In addition, suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for youth (15-24yrs old). Given the prevalence rates of suicide among Americans, it is not surprising that suicide affects at least 6 other people, which translates to 6 new people becoming suicide survivors every 13.7 minutes. *
So, what should we know to be able to create informed opinions and have heightened awareness of factors surrounding suicide? Here is a non-exhaustive list of risk and protective factors, not mentioned above, that can help to increase your knowledge and a basic understanding.
- Impulsive/aggressive tendencies
- History of trauma or abuse
- Major physical illnesses
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Family history of suicide
- Job or financial loss
- Relational or social loss
- Easy access to lethal means
- Local clusters of suicide that have a contagious influence
- Lack of social support and sense of isolation
- Stigma associated with help-seeking behavior
- Barriers to accessing health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
- Certain cultural and religious beliefs
- Local epidemics of suicide.
The American Association of Suicidology has developed an easy mnemonic for the public to remember risk factors associated with suicide:
- Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation.
- Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders.
- Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support.
- Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide.
- Family and community support.
- Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships.
- Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent handling of disputes.
As a society, we are quick to adopt the mindset of those that are the most persistent and vocal, when many times their position is based on isolated (non-empirical) data. It is important that we not only stay informed with concrete factual information, but that we use this knowledge to assist or guide those that are in need and not abandon them for fear of being uncomfortable or not knowing what to say.
Jeremy H. Broussard PhD, LPC
Gannon J. Watts PhD, LPC-S, LAC, NCC, NCSC, AADC, ICAADC
*Data collected from www.suicidology.org