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Sep 27

Raising Suicide Awareness

Posted on September 27, 2021 at 4:05 PM by Melinda Mayo

September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  As the National Alliance on Mental Health Illness states, this recognition “offers a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic. In addition to shifting public perception, we use this month to spread hope and vital information to people affected by suicide. Our goal is ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and to seek help.”

The National Data

A few statistics provided by the National Alliance on Mental Health and the CDC:

Individual Impact:

  • Seventy-eight percent of all people who die by suicide are male.
  • Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are nearly four times more likely to die by suicide.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the United States.
  • The overall suicide rate in the United States has increased by 35% since 1999.
  • Forty-six percent of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • While nearly half of individuals who die by suicide have a diagnosed mental health condition, research shows that 90% experienced symptoms.

Community Impact:

  • Annual prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide, by U.S. demographic group:
    • 4.8% of all adults
    • 11.8% of young adults aged 18-25
    • 18.8% of high school students
    • 46.8% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students
  • Some of the highest rates of suicide in the United States are among American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic white communities.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
  • Transgender adults are nearly 12 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.

Virginia and Local Data

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Virginia according to a report from the Virginia Department of Health, and was on the rise prior to the pandemic.  Mental health issues have increased even more during the pandemic—most notably among people of color, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.  There are several factors that increase the risk of suicide, including a history of mental health disorders, or alcohol and substance abuse.  Difficulty in accessing mental health services, loss, physical illness, or social isolation also contribute to the risk.  

In Virginia, the majority of deaths by suicide are by males (77%) who are most often White (85%) and over the age of 45 (54%).  More than half of all suicides in involved a firearm (55%).  Military veterans represent 20% of all suicides in Virginia.   Hospitalization rates in Salem and Roanoke due to self-harm are among the highest in the State (113/100,000 and 108/100,000 respectively), with nearly all of these associated with drug overdoses (84%).  Nearly 10% of high school students in Virginia have indicated they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide.

How to Get Help

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and confidential 24/7 for people who are in distress and seeking help or their loved ones—1-800-273-TALK (8255).  The National Alliance on Mental Illness has prepared a guide to the warning signs of suicide to aid those in helping others.

Be aware of the signs, know how to get help, and be there for your loved ones and others.   Together, we can prevent suicide.

-- Bob Cowell

Suicide Prevention Graphic


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