Suicide Rates Rise Across the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released disturbing statistics in June 2018, regarding the dramatic rise in suicides: suicide rates increased over 30% in half the states since 1999 and 54% of people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 40,000 lives are lost to suicide annually - 1 person every 13 minutes.
According to the CDC, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It claims more lives than automobile accidents or opioids and yet in some cases the numbers of suicides are under-reported as families want to hide the reasoning behind the death of a loved one. This secrecy exposes the stigma. The silence perpetuates the problem.
Considering the alarming increase in numbers, suicide does not receive the attention it deserves. With high profile celebrities like comedian Robin Williams, fashion designer Kate Spade and chef, author, travel documentarian and television personality, Anthony Bourdain, suicide grabs the spotlight. We are fleetingly shocked into awareness and a sense of tragic loss and then move on. It is not so difficult to discuss murder, accidental death, the passing of loved ones due to age and illness but there is an understandable and undeniable discomfort in discussing suicide.
Suicide is often attributed to mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder. While it is true that many people with diagnosable mental health conditions die by suicide, it is also true that over half the people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition. Suicide is rarely caused by any single factor. Problems contributing to suicide can include any one or a combination of factors like relationship issues, substance use, physical health, housing, job, money, or legal stressors.
Generally, the person who chooses suicide has an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and feels it is the only viable option. We may never know what drives some individuals to suicide but we do know that every suicide leaves people behind trying to cope with the traumatic loss. These include parents, siblings, spouses, children, friends, relatives, bosses, co-workers and others. The act of suicide has a wide rippling impact and leaves the anguished question, “Why?” lingering for years, if not a lifetime, for many.
What to Do?
Know the 12 Warning Signs of Suicide (CDC)
1. Being isolated
2. Increased anxiety
3. Feeling like a burden
4. Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
5. Increased substance use
6. Extreme mood swings
7. Increased anger or rage
8. Seeking access to lethal means
9. Expressing hopelessness
10. Sleeping too much or too little
11. Talking or posting about wanting to die
12. Making plans for suicide
Employers Can …
- Promote employee health and well-being, support employees at-risk and have plans in place to respond to people demonstrating warning signs.
- Reduce stigma about seeking help. Encourage employees to seek help, provide referrals to the employee assistance program or other mental health, substance use disorder, legal or financial counseling services as needed.
- Call the local Police Department Non-Emergency Number to request a “Wellness Check” on an employee who has failed to report to work and about whom you have concerns. Police will be dispatched to the home to assess the individual.
Never leave an employee alone who is threatening suicide. Call 9-1-1 or contact your EAP for assistance.
Everyone Can …
- Ask someone you are worried about if they’re thinking about suicide.
- Keep them safe. Reduce access to lethal means for those at risk.
- Be there with them. Listen to what they need.
- Help them connect with ongoing support like the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
- Follow up to see how they are doing.
For more information on suicide prevention, go to
If you need help for yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Talk: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
The Lifeline is available 24/7. It offers free and confidential support for individuals in distress and provides prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.