Suicide rates soar across the US – report

Suicide rates are rising in the US, according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 50 percent of states experiencing an increase of more than 30 percent.

Between 1999 and 2016, suicide increased across 49 states, with 25 of those seeing an increase by almost a third, the CDC’s Vital Signs report shows. The only state to experience a decrease in suicides was Nevada, which saw its rate fall by one percent.

Close to 45,000 people died by suicide in 2016, more than double the amount who died from homicide.

READ MORE: Armed police broke into Chelsea Manning’s home after suicidal tweets

“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said. “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.”

The CDC looked at trends in rates at state level. They also looked at data from its National Violent Death Reporting System which covers 27 states to gain a fuller picture of the circumstances surrounding the suicides. In more than half of the suicides in the 27 states, the person had no known mental health condition.

Why are suicides on the rise?

The increasing suicide rates are the result of a number of factors. The time frame included the global financial crash in 2008, in which many lost their jobs and homes.

Opioid use is also surging across the US. A study by the Journal of Psychiatric Research found prescription opioid misuse was associated with a 40-60 percent increase in the risk of suicidal thoughts. Those who misuse opioids on a weekly basis attempt suicide at a rate of 200 percent more than others.

Many factors contribute to suicide, with the CDC reporting data from the National Violent Death Reporting System from 2015 which shows 42 percent have relationship problems, 29 percent experience a crisis, 28 percent have problems with substance abuse, and 16 percent have an issue with finances or their jobs.

The most common method used to end one’s life in the US is by firearm. The CDC found 55 percent of suicides where the person was not known to have a mental health condition were carried out using firearms, and 45 percent of those who did have a diagnosed mental health issue.

A Harvard study found gun availability is a risk factor when it comes to youth suicide.

North Dakota experienced the greatest increase (57 percent). The state also has a higher rate of suicide among young people. Teens in North Dakota are three times more likely to die by suicide, Public News Service reported last year.

Looking at CDC figures from 2014, suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 10-34. It is the fourth most common cause of death among 35-54 year olds.

Suicide rates are higher in rural areas, with the gap between rates in urban and rural areas widening, with 2007 seeing the gap begin to widen more quickly, the CDC reports.

White non-Hispanics have the highest rates in urban areas, while Native Americans and Alaska Native non-Hispanics having the highest rates in rural areas.

What can be done?

The CDC recommended a public health approach to suicide prevention, which would require government, healthcare, employers, education system, community organizers and the media to work together to take steps to bring down the rates.

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