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Overview of Suicide in the U.S.

Suicide, when someone purposively takes their own life, is devastating for families, communities, and society. In 2017, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of more than 47,000 people. That same year, an estimated 1.4 million people attempted suicide. Rates of suicide are higher in rural areas than in urban areas, which will be covered in more detail in this module.

Suicide impacts people of all ages, races, ethnicities, genders, incomes, and communities. However, it is useful to know how rates vary in order to know where to direct resources for prevention. Among people ages 10-34, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Yet, overall rates of suicide are highest in adults ages 45-54, followed by adults ages 85 and older. Many older adults also have significant risk factors for suicide, and their attempts are more likely to result in death compared with younger adults.

There are also differences by gender in suicide risk. Although suicide ideation is more prevalent in women, men die by suicide at higher rates, partly because they are likely to use a more lethal method. Rates of suicide for both men and women have steadily increased since 1999, with a higher annual increase of about 2% since 2006.

Comparing suicide rates by race and ethnicity, white individuals have the highest rates (age-adjusted rate of 15.9 per 100,000 people in 2017), followed by American Indians/Alaskan Natives (age-adjusted rate of 13.4 per 100,000 people.)

Suicide can be prevented, however, and rural communities can act to address this growing crisis. In addition to prevention, appropriate community responses to suicide are essential in order to bolster resilience and prevent additional suicides. Successful models and programs will be described in later modules.

Resources to Learn More

Overview of suicide rates and trends in the United States.
Organization(s): National Institute of Mental Health

Suicide Statistics
Overview of suicide statistics and risk factors across different socio-demographic groups.
Organization(s): American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Zero Suicide Toolkit
Provides guidance for healthcare systems on seven specific steps to address suicide prevention.
Organization(s): Suicide Prevention Resource Center and National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention