According to the CDC, U.S. suicide rates are growing rapidly each year. Rates are now at the highest since World War II. Some of the contributing factors are believed to be high stress, social media usage, and the current opioid crisis.
CDC data from 2017 shows that 14 out of 100,000 Americans had a cause of death listed as suicide. This is a 33% increase in suicide deaths since 1999 and is the highest recorded rate since 1942. The last time rates were higher was during the Great Depression, peaking in 1932.
Jill Harkavy-Friedman, the Vice President of Research at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a non-profit that supports suicide prevention, education, and policy recently said, “I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits all reason since there’s almost never a single cause of suicide. I don’t think there’s something you can pinpoint, but I do think a period of increased stress and a lack of a sense of security may be contributing.”
Suicide deaths are occuring across all demographics. Male suicide rates are still three times higher than women, but suicide rates among women have climbed by 53% since 1999. Rates have only climbed by 26% for men in the same time period. American Indians and Alaska natives have the highest ethnic rates. Nearly every age and ethnic group saw an increase in suicide rates in recent years, with the highest age group rates being those aged 45-64.
However, suicide isn’t just affecting older adults. Suicide rates are rapidly increasing in both boys and girls ages 10-14. Concerningly, rates for this gender and age group are growing the fastest and are at the highest since 2000. Reasons for the increase in this group are thought to be related to opioid use and social media usage.
A correlation has been found between drug use and risk of suicide for both the drug user and their families. Children and young adults are witnessing more drug use and more deaths from overdose, which has a critical impact on their mental health. Social media use is also thought to contribute to the higher suicide rates, particularly as children and teens begin to use the platforms at even younger ages. Social media opens up opportunities for online bullying and unhealthy comparisons. It also decreases the amount of face-to-face interaction that children and teens have with their peers.
Mental health experts encourage those struggling, or who have a friend or family member struggling, to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional. If someone is in immediate danger, they should seek care at an Emergency Room.
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.