The suicide rate in the United States increased by 24% from 1999 through 2014, according to a new report by the National Center for Health Statistics.
The report is unique in that it breaks down suicide by different age groups and gender, and shows that the increase in suicide is among all groups, said Sally Curtin, one of the report's authors. The increase in suicide rate has been steady since 1999, before which there was a consistent decline since 1986, she said.
“It’s a very important report, and the results are very striking,” said Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. “The rate has increased so much since 1999, especially during the second half of that period.”
A vast number of people who die from suicide are those with psychiatric conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, said Borenstein.
Kristin Holland, a behavioral scientist at the Center for Disease Control, believes there are multiple factors contributing towards the increase in suicide rate, and mental health is only one of them.
“Many people view suicide as a mental health problem, but many people who die of suicide do not have a mental health problem. It’s a public health problem,” she said.
According to Holland, the economic recession of the late 2000s and the increase of substance abuse are some of the factors leading to more frequent incidents of suicide.
The report also says that the increase in suicide rate was higher among females (45% increase) than males (16% increase), narrowing the suicide rate gap between the two genders. But as of 2014, the suicide rate in males is still three times higher than in females.
“Females actually commit suicide more frequently than males, but males die by suicide more often. Males are choosing more lethal methods (of committing suicide) than women,” said Holland.
According to the report, use of firearms was the most frequent suicide method in 2014 for men, while poisoning was the most frequent method for women. The report also states that for women, the highest percent increase in suicide rates was among those ages 10–14, while for men it was 45–64.
Both Holland and Borenstein agreed that suicide prevention needs more resources and research.
“We do not have enough resources directed at suicide prevention, especially compared to funding behind other leading causes of death,” Holland said.
“If this was a finding of some other problem that results in death, it would be on the front page of every newspaper. People would be pressuring the politicians to come up with solutions,” said Borenstein. “Hopefully this (report) would be a wake up call and a call to action on the part of our country.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)