The Grapevine

Suicide Rates Rise In US Not Just A Mental Health Issue: CDC

Suicide rates experienced a significant rise across most of the United States over recent decades, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since 1999, half the states have seen suicide rates increase by more than 30 percent.

"Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates — United States, 1999–2016 and Circumstances Contributing to Suicide — 27 States, 2015" was published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 8.

Information and data regarding suicides were collected from every state by a group of researchers led by Deborah Stone, a behavioral scientist at the CDC. Only people over the age of 10 were considered for the study as the intent was hard to determine for those who were younger.

"Unfortunately, our data show that the problem is getting worse," said CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat.

It was found that the rate of suicide in the country increased by more than 25 percent between 1999 and 2016. Results also showed nearly 45,000 people in the country died by suicide in 2016.

The use of firearms was the most common method of suicide followed by hanging or suffocation. Poisoning followed next, Schuchat said, highlighting the presence of opioids in 31 percent of people who died by poisoning. However, it is difficult to determine intent in cases of overdose as they can also be accidental in nature.

"Our data suggests that suicide is more than a mental health issue," said Schuchat, given that 54 percent of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. "We think that a comprehensive approach to suicide is what's needed. If we only look at this as a mental health issue, we won't make the progress that we need."

It was estimated that 22 to 24 percent of people who died by suicide disclosed their intent at some point, as the authors emphasized the importance of not ignoring suicidal ideation. Moreover, this happened regardless of whether the person was diagnosed with a mental health condition or not. 

Factors that contributed to suicide included relationship problems (42 percent), physical health problems (22 percent), problematic substance use (28 percent), and more.

To target the problem, the report called for better support from state and local communities, health care providers, as well as family and friends. And while conversations about gun control are needed, Stone explained there is more to be addressed in terms of accessibility.

"[It's] not just about firearms, it's also about other methods of suicide such as hanging, suffocation, poisoning and the like," she said. "We are concerned with all aspects of suicide prevention, including access to lethal means, and so we do include that in a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention."