Understanding Suicide

The following information is provided by www.cdc.gov‒your online source for credible health information and is the official web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. While its causes are complex and determined by multiple factors, the goal of suicide prevention is simple: Reduce factors that increase risk (i.e. risk factors) and increase factors that promote resilience (i.e. protective factors). Ideally, prevention addresses all levels of influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal. Effective prevention strategies are needed to promote awareness of suicide and encourage a commitment to social change.

Suicide is preventable and is a significant public health issue. In 2013, there were over 41,000 suicides in the United States – an average of 113 each day. Each suicide takes a substantial toll on individuals, families and communities. The medical costs and lost wages associated with suicide are estimated to be $51 billion per year. These numbers underestimate the severity of the problem. In 2013, over 494,000 people were treated in US emergency departments for self-inflected injuries. In addition, many more people struggle with thoughts of suicide. For every one suicide, there were over 229 adults who seriously considered suicide.

The risk for suicidal behavior is complex. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide but some groups are at higher risk than others. Men are about four times more likely than women to die from suicide. However, women are more likely to express suicidal thoughts and to make nonfatal attempts than men. In the past, suicide was addressed by providing mental health services to people who were already experiencing or showing signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior. While such services are critical, preventing suicide at a national level will require approaches that go beyond mental health issues to address broader family, community, and societal issues.

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