The country’s suicide rates have reached a new high unseen since 1986, according to an article by The New York Times, which cites a federal data analysis that found rate increases in all age groups, with the exception of older adults.
According to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics, suicide rates increased from 1999 through 2014 for both males and females and for all ages 10-74. The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, showed a substantial increase of 63% over the period of the study, and by 43% for men in the same age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24% from 1999 to 2014.
“It’s really stunning to see such a large increase in suicide rates affecting virtually every age group,” said Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser for healthcare at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in the New York Times article. Hempstead has identified a link between suicides in middle age and rising rates of distress about jobs and personal finances.
The most frequent suicide method in 2014 for males involved the use of firearms (55.4%), while poisoning was the most frequent method for females (34.1%). Percentages of suicides attributable to suffocation increased for both sexes between 1999 and 2014.
According to the New York Times article, the increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in 2013, and there is one suicide fore every 25 attempts. The NCHS study also found an alarming increase among girls 10 to 14, whose suicide rate rose to 150 in 2014 from 50 in 1999, a 200% increase.
Organizations across the country are attempting to stem these troubling numbers in their states. For instance, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the District of Columbia for the 15-24 age group. To help address the problem, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law the Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Amendment Act of 2016 on April 27.
“Under current D.C. law, it is mandatory for teachers and school administrators to identify students who have unmet behavioral health needs and refer them to appropriate services,” John Madigan, AFSP vice president of public policy, said in a news release. “This is especially important in protecting our nation’s most important resource— our children. With this new law, now they will also have the tools to recognize the warning signs and risk factors for suicide and implement best practices for suicide prevention, suicide intervention and suicide postvention.”
The federal health agency’s last major report on suicide was released in 2013. “We have more and more effective treatments, but we have to figure out how to bake them into healthcare systems so they are used more automatically,” said Jane Pearson, PhD, chairwoman of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Suicide Research Consortium, in the article. “We’ve got bits and pieces, but we haven’t really put them all together yet.”
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