ABOUT SUICIDE - FACTS
WHAT IS SUICIDE?
Suicide is the deliberate taking or ending of one's own life. It is often associated
with a severe crisis that does not go away, that may worsen over time, or that may
appear hopeless. Friends or loved ones in crisis may show signs that indicate that
they are at risk of attempting or committing suicide.
HOW DOES SUICIDE RANK WITH OTHER CAUSES OF DEATH?
- Suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States, accounting
for more than 1% of all deaths.
More years of life are lost to suicide than to any other single cause except
heart disease and cancer.
HOW MANY DEATHS BY SUICIDE OCCUR IN THE U.S.?
- 30,000 Americans die by suicide each year.
- An additional 500,000 Americans attempt suicide annually.
WHAT ROLE DOES AGE HAVE IN SUICIDES?
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, and
the fourth leading cause of death among 25 to 44-year-olds in the United States.
- Suicide rates are highest in old age: 20% of the population and 40% of suicide victims
are over 60. After age 75, the rate is three times higher than average, and among
white men over 80, it is six times higher than average.
IS IT COMMON FOR A PERSON TO MAKE MORE THAN ONE ATTEMPT?
- Yes. 30% to 40% of persons who died by suicide have made a previous attempt.
- The actual ratio of attempts to completed suicides is approximately 10 to 1.
- The risk of suicide is more than 100 times greater than average in the first year
after an attempt - 80 times greater for women, 200 times greater for men, 200 times
greater for people over 45, and 300 times greater for white men over 65.
WHAT ROLE DOES SUBSTANCE ABUSE HAVE IN SUICIDE?
- Substance abuse/misuse is another key risk factor associated with suicide. Substance
abuse may be involved in half of all cases. About 20% of suicides involve people
with alcohol problems, and the lifetime rate of suicide among people with alcohol-use
problems is at least three or four times the average. Completed suicides are more
likely to be men over 45 who are depressed or alcoholic.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER COMMON METHODS OF SUICIDE?
Firearms, suffocation, and poison are by far the most common methods of suicide.
DO MEN AND WOMEN DIFFER IN THE METHODS THEY USE?
Yes, see the following table:
WHAT DO STUDIES SAY ABOUT SUICIDE IN THE MILITARY?
- Of all active duty suicides between 2003 and 2009: 94.4% were male; modal age was
21; 74.3% were Caucasian; 52.1% were married; 57.1% were junior enlisted; 20.7%
were in the infantry; 83.3% were Active Component; 69.3% had one or more deployments;
67.5% were by gunshot; 19.8 were by hanging; 4.6% were by overdose (drugs/alcohol).
- Historically, the Army suicide rate has been significantly lower than the civilian
rate (the civilian rate, demographically adjusted, is typically about 19.2 per 100,000).
However, suicide and accidental death rates began trending upward in 2004, and in
2008, the Army suicide rate crested above the national average and reached a record
of 20.2 per 100,000.
- Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror, had
the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times
higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per
100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
- For every suicide death in 2009, at least five members of the armed forces were
hospitalized for attempting to take their life.
- According to the Navy Times, 2 percent of Army; 2.3 percent of Marines, and 3 percent
of Navy respondents to the military’s own survey of 28,536 members from all branches
reported they had attempted suicide at some point.
- A 2007 CBS study put the suicide rate among male veterans aged 20 to 24 at four
times the national average—more than 40 per 100,000 per year.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs reported in January 2010, that the suicide rate
among 17 to 29-year-old male veterans jumped 26 percent from 2005 to 2007.
- On average, 18 veterans per day take their own lives.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY SUICIDE RISK FACTORS IN THE MILITARY?
- The most prevalent individual stressor was relationship problems, which were present
in 58% of the suicide deaths in 2009.
- Data collected since 2005 show that approximately 29% of suicides included either
drug or alcohol use.
- Almost 30% of the Army’s suicide deaths from 2003 to 2009, and over 45% of the non-fatal
suicide behavior from 2005 to 2009, involved the use of drugs or alcohol.
- The "Defense Survey of Health-Related Behaviors" found "dangerous levels" of alcohol
abuse and the illicit use of drugs such as pain killers by 12 percent of military
- 25% had some form of closed or pending misdemeanor or felony investigation.
- Military or work stress, as defined in the Department of Defense Suicide Event Report
(DoDSER), is recognized as the second most prevalent individual risk factor and
has contributed to 50% of the suicide deaths from 2005 to 2009.
- A history of legal/law enforcement encounters and disciplinary/administrative actions
were present in 34% of the suicide deaths between 2005 and 2009.
- A history of behavioral health diagnosis is strongly associated with increased incidence
of high risk and suicidal behaviors.
- Diagnosed cases of PTSD have steadily increased in the Army since 2003. Untreated
PTSD can lead to suicidal behavior.
- A study of veterans with PTSD published last August 2009 by the Journal of Traumatic
Stress found that 47 percent had had suicidal thoughts before seeking treatment
and 3 percent had attempted to kill themselves.
- In a study of 300,000 male U.S. Army soldiers, a definitive link between suicide
and smoking was observed with those smoking over a pack a day having twice the suicide
rate of non-smokers.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF A FRIEND OF LOVED ONE MENTIONS SUICIDE?
First, take seriously all suicide threats and all suicide attempts. If you think
a person is having suicidal thoughts, get more information. Remember, asking questions
will not increase the person’s suicidal thoughts. It will give you information that
indicates how strongly the person has thought about killing himself or herself.
IF SOMEONE I KNOW MENTIONS SUICIDE, WHAT SHOULD I ASK?
- "Are you thinking about killing yourself?" (Ask directly if he/she is having suicidal
- "Have you ever tried to hurt yourself before?" (A past history of suicide attempts
is one of the strongest risk factors for death by suicide.)
- "Do you think you might try to hurt yourself today?" (Is the thought fleeting, or
does the person have a clear plan and intent to commit self-harm imminently?)
- "Have you thought about ways that you might hurt yourself?" "Do you have pills/weapons
in the house?" (Find out about the availability of lethal means to carry out the
IS THERE AN EASY WAY TO REMEMBER SUICIDE'S "RED FLAGS"?
the IS PATH WARMmemory aid:
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD DO?
- Is Path Warm?
- I DEATION – threatened or communicated
- S UBSTANCE ABUSE – excessive or increased
- P URPOSELESS – no reason for living
- A NXIETY – agitation/insomnia
- T RAPPED – feeling there is no way out
- H OPELESSNESS – believing that the situation will not improve
- W ITHDRAWING – from friends, family, society
- A NGER (UNCONTROLLED) – rage, seeking revenge
- R ECKLESSNESS – risky acts, unthinking
- M OOD CHANGES (DRAMATIC) – depression followed by calm or happiness
Yes, be sure to take action.
- If you think the person might harm himself or herself, do not leave the person alone.
- Say, "I'm going to get you some help."
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will be
connected to the nearest available crisis center. Or….
- Go to SAMHSA's Mental Health Services Locator or Substance Abuse Treatment Facility
- If you’re a health care worker, note that there is no evidence that "no-suicide
contracts" prevent suicide. In fact, such contracts may give counselors a false
sense of reassurance.