Our Suicide Count Keeps Getting Worse

According to provisional CDC numbers
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 10, 2023 3:00 PM CDT
2022 Saw More Suicides Than Ever
In 2022, about 49,500 people took their own lives in the US, the highest number ever, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023.   (Getty Images / Wacharaphong)

About 49,500 people took their own lives last year in the US, the highest number ever recorded, according to new government data posted Thursday. The CDC, which posted the numbers, has not yet calculated a suicide rate for the year, but available data suggests suicides are more common in the US than at any time since the dawn of World War II. The largest increases were seen in older adults. Deaths rose nearly 7% in people ages 45 to 64, and more than 8% in people 65 and older. Suicides among adults ages 25 to 44 grew about 1%. The new data indicates that suicide became the second leading cause of death in that age group in 2022, up from No. 4 in 2021.

US suicides steadily rose from the early 2000s until 2018, when the national rate hit its highest level since 1941. That year saw about 48,300 suicide deaths—or 14.2 for every 100,000 Americans. The rate fell slightly in 2019. It dropped again in 2020, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some experts tied that to a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and natural disasters, when people pull together and support each other. But in 2021, suicides rose 4%. Last year, according to the new data, the number jumped by more than 1,000, to 49,449—about a 3% increase vs. the year before, reports the AP.

Despite the grim statistics, some say there is reason for optimism. A national crisis line launched a year ago, meaning anyone in the US can dial 988 to reach mental health specialists. And there was a more than 8% drop in suicides in people ages 10 to 24 in 2022. That may be due to increased attention to youth mental health issues and a push for schools and others to focus on the problem, CDC officials said. The provisional data comes from US death certificates and is considered almost complete, but it may change slightly as death information is reviewed in the months ahead.

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Experts caution that suicide is complicated, and that recent increases might be driven by a range of factors, including higher rates of depression and limited availability of mental health services. But a main driver is the growing availability of guns, said Jill Harkavy-Friedman, senior vice president of research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide attempts involving guns end in death far more often than those with other means, and gun sales have boomed. A recent Johns Hopkins University analysis used preliminary 2022 data to calculate that the nation's overall gun suicide rate rose last year to an all-time high. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. It's free and available 24/7.

(More suicide stories.)

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