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Preventing Suicide

Depressed manSuicide can be prevented. Each year, more than 41,000 Americans take their own lives and more than 494,000 Americans receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the entire month is dedicated to suicide prevention awareness in the United States. Help prevent suicide in your community by knowing the facts, warning signs, and where to get help.

Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects people of all ages. It is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans. The top three methods used in suicides include firearms (51.5%), suffocation (24.5%), and poisoning (16.1%).

Deaths from suicide are only part of the problem. Many more people survive suicide attempts than actually die. In 2013, nearly half a million people (494,169) received medical care for self-inflicted injuries at emergency departments across the United States. More than one million adults self-reported a suicide attempt, and 9.3 million adults self-reported serious thoughts of suicide.

A depressed woman

People rarely communicate openly about suicide, which hinders effective prevention.

Suicide is often the result of multiple risk factors. Having these risk factors, however, does not mean that suicide will occur. Some of the risk factors researchers identified include the following:

  • 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 (e.g., job, financial, relationship)
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • History of interpersonal violence
  • Stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. Some of the protective factors researchers identified are listed below.

  • 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
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support seeking help

Many 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 rarely communicate openly about suicide. Thus, an important public health problem is left hidden in secrecy, which hinders effective prevention.

Senior man and woman hugging

Effective care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders has been identified as a protective factor.

Know the Warning Signs and Get Help

There are warning signs for suicide. Research has uncovered a wealth of information about the causes of suicide and prevention strategies. For more information, visit American Association of Suicidology. 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.

Data Sources