Suicide rates rose in almost every state in the U.S., new report shows

Since 1999, half of states had increases in suicide of more than 30 percent.

CREDIT: Diana Ofosu/ThinkProgress/Getty
CREDIT: Diana Ofosu/ThinkProgress/Getty

Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade both reportedly died by suicide this week. Bourdain, an influential chef, author, and host of the series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, was found dead at 61 in his apartment on Friday morning. Spade, a fashion designer whose work has been described as “a kind of Holly Golightly sophistication for the masses,” was found dead in her home at 55 on Tuesday.

Suicide rates have increased in nearly every state since 1999, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released this week. In 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 people died by suicide. Half of the states had increases of more than 30 percent. Rates were particularly high (an increase of 38 to 58 percent) in Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Idaho, Vermont, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

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“These findings are disturbing … and suicide is a public health problem that can be prevented,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC’s principal deputy director, told media in a press briefing, according to BuzzFeed News.

According to the report, middle-aged Americans had the highest increase in suicide rates during these years and 76.8 percent of people who died by suicide were male. About 83 percent of those who died by suicide were non-Hispanic white people. Suicide rates rose for men and women across racial and ethnic groups, however.

Regardless of whether someone has a known mental health condition, there are risk factors, including relationship problems, a crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks, problematic substance use, physical health problems, financial problems, criminal legal issues, and loss of housing, the report shows.

There are also still many barriers for people seeking mental health treatment in the United States. Among adults with a mental illness and a perceived unmet need, 72 percent said they had at least one structural barrier and 47 percent said they had one attitudinal barrier to accessing treatment, according to a 2015 study. Respondents without insurance reported significantly more structural barriers and fewer attitudinal barriers to mental health treatment.

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A body of research has found that for people at elevated risk of suicide, some key barriers to care are lack of perceived need for services, fear of hospitalization, and factors such as time and finances. Facilitators to people getting care included encouragement from family and friends to get support, mental health literacy, and positive views of services. Research shows the perception of public stigma on mental health treatment is particularly a barrier for young people accessing mental health treatment as well as veterans.

People who die by suicide and don’t have known mental health conditions were more likely to be men and to die by the use of a firearm. Fifty-five percent died by firearm, 27 percent by suffocation, 10 percent by poisoning, and 8 percent by another method, the CDC report showed.

According to a New England Journal of Medicine article, 24 percent of people who made near lethal attempts made the decision less than five minutes before they attempted it and 70 percent took less than an hour to attempt suicide. But the vast majority of those who survive suicide, including attempts that were expected to be lethal, do not go on to die by suicide. When people have access to guns, the chances they will die by suicide are far higher, researchers say.

The CDC report outlined a number of approaches to prevent suicide, such as states doing more to financially assist people who are unemployed and are dealing with housing stress, strengthening access to health care systems through remote services online or by phone, employers reducing stigma about seeking help, community programs, and education on how to manage problems, such as teaching coping skills.

You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

There is also a veterans suicide hotline, the Veterans Crisis Line, at 1-800-273-8255 and LGBTQ Suicide Hotline at 1-866-488-7386 (The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline).