Nearly 1 million people die by suicide globally each year.1
Suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death across all age groups. Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among adolescents and young adults. During 2008-2009, 8.3 million people over age 18 in the United States (3.7% of the adult US population) reported having suicidal thoughts in the last year, and approximately 1 million people (0.5% of the adult US population) reported having made a suicide attempt in the last year. There were just under 37 000 reported deaths by suicide (completed suicides) during the same time period, and almost 20 times that number of emergency room visits after nonfatal suicide attempts.2
Rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors vary by age, gender, occupation, region, ethnicity, and time of year. According to a 2011 report2
released by the CDC, in 2008, the highest prevalence of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts among those surveyed in the US was reported by adults aged 18 to 29 years, non-Hispanic white males, people who were unemployed, and people with less than a high school education. There were no reported differences in the rates of suicide attempts by geographical region, though people living in the Midwest region of the US were most likely to have made a suicide plan in the last year, and those in the Midwest and Western region of the US reported the highest prevalence of suicidal ideation. While rates of completed suicides tend to be higher among men than women and higher among middle aged or older adults than among younger people, rates of nonfatal suicidal behavior are higher among females and adolescents and young adults.1
The most commonly employed methods of suicide are by gunshot, hanging, drug overdose or other poisoning, jumping, asphyxiation, vehicular impact, drowning, exsanguination, and electrocution. There are other indirect methods some attempters may employ, such as behaving recklessly or not taking vitally required medications. Many suicides go unreported, as it can be difficult to identify indirect suicide attempts as suicide, and even some of the more direct methods of suicide may not be clearly identifiable attempts. For example, drug overdoses or vehicular impact attempts are more passive methods, and it may be difficult to determine whether an event was an attempt or accident. Conversely, accidental drug overdoses can often be confused with suicide attempts. If the deceased left behind a note or told someone about their plans or intent to take their own life, this can help those left behind, the suicide survivors, to distinguish between an attempt and an accident, but often no such explanation exists.
Nearly 90% of all suicides are associated with a diagnosable mental health or substance-abuse disorder.3
The underlying vulnerability of suicidal behavior is the subject of intense research scrutiny, and includes biological, social, and psychological underpinnings.4-8
While depression and bipolar disorder are the most common disorders among people who attempt suicide, suicide attempters may also suffer from substance abuse disorders, other psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, and may feel that suicide is the only way to end an unbearable pain they may be feeling as the result of their mental illness, trauma, or a significant loss, rejection, or disappointment. Additionally, a past history of suicide attempts is the best predictor for future attempts.9
Common themes among suicide attempters are feelings of hopelessness, despair, and isolation from family and friends. Despite loved ones' and professionals' best efforts to support them in their suffering, suicide attempters are often unable to think clearly and rationally through their pain.
It is estimated that 85% of people in the United States will know someone personally who has completed suicide.3
For each suicide completed, at least 6 loved ones are directly affected by the death.10
While not everyone exposed to a suicide will be acutely affected by the death,11
this is likely an underestimation as reported figures may not account for the emergency responders, health care providers, coworkers, and acquaintances also affected by the suicide. That said, individuals most closely related to the deceased are usually those most adversely affected by the death.7,12