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Preventing Suicide

Depressed manSuicide can be prevented. Each year, more than 39,000 Americans take their own lives and about 487,000 people receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Help prevent suicide in your community by knowing the facts, warning signs, and where to get help.

Suicide (i.e., taking one's own life) is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages. It is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Suicide resulted in 39,518 lives lost in 2011. The top three methods used in suicides included firearm (51%), suffocation (25%), and poisoning (17%).

Deaths from suicide are only part of the problem. More people survive suicide attempts than actually die. In 2011, about 487,700 people received medical care for self-inflicted injuries at emergency departments across the United States.

A depressed woman

Several factors can put a person at risk for suicide. However, having these risk factors does not always mean that suicide will occur. Some of the risk factors researchers identified include:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. Some of the protective factors researchers identified include:

  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to various clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Cultural beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation, including seeking help

Most people are uncomfortable with the topic of suicide. Too often, victims are blamed and their families and friends are left stigmatized. As a result, people do not communicate openly about suicide. Thus, an important public health problem is left shrouded in secrecy, which limits the amount of information available to those working to prevent suicidal behavior.

Two seniors hugging

Know the Warning Signs and Get Help

Suicide has many warning signs. For more information, visit American Association of Suicidology.
The good news is that research over the last several decades has uncovered a wealth of information about the causes of suicide and prevention strategies. Additionally, CDC is working to monitor the problem, develop and evaluate prevention strategies, and to disseminate information to prevent suicidal behavior.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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