According to the recently published figures, 54 percent of reported suicide deaths since 1999 could not be traced back to mental health diagnoses. Circumstances involving relationships, substance abuse, job or financial troubles, health issues and access to lethal means, such as firearms, significantly contributed to the dramatic rise, the CDC reported.
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Still, experts note that previous research has shown higher rates of mental health disorders among those at high risk of suicide.
"The reason most suicide decedents don't have a known mental disorder is that they were never diagnosed, not that they didn't have one," Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, told the New York Times.
According to Brent, access to firearms may make it more tempting for an impulsive or intoxicated individual to attempt suicide whether or not the individual appears to have a mental health problem.
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It involves treating mental disorders “as one important component,” instead of thinking of suicide as “simply a matter of too much stress,” he added.
The report calls suicide a growing public health problem that needs to be effectively approached to prevent risk whether or not an individual has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
CDC experts suggest stabilizing housing, teaching coping skills at an early age and promoting emotional and social connectedness to enhance a sense of belonging and support. They also addressed the need to reduce “access to lethal means.”
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Some states, like Colorado, are already working to implement a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention using CDC guidelines.
The national suicide rate climbed to 15.4 per 100,000 people in the United States. In 2016, nearly 45,000 individuals died by suicide in the country.
Some states fared worse than others.
In North Dakota, the suicide rate grew by more than 57 percent since 1999. Only one state, Nevada, saw a decline, but its rate is still high, ranging between 21 and 23 suicides per 100,000 people.
Between 1996 and 2016, Georgia experienced a 16.2 percent increase in suicide rates, comparatively low compared with the 25 states where suicide rates rose by nearly 30 percent. But that’s still considered a significant increase, according to the CDC.
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Here’s a breakdown of the state’s suicide deaths per 100,000 since 1999:
- 1999-2001: 12.9 (both male and female; 22.1 (male); 5.0 (female)
- 2002-2004: 13.2 (both); 23.1 (male); 4.8 (female)
- 2005-2007: 12.3 (both); 21.3 (male); 4.6 (female)
- 2008-2010: 13.2 (both); 21.9 (male); 5.5 (female)
- 2011-2013: 13.7 (both); 22.6 (male); 5.8 (female)
- 2014-2016: 15.0 (both); 24.4 (male); 6.6 (female)
- Overall percentage change: 16.2 percent; 2.1 rate increase
Nationally, men accounted for three-quarters of all suicide deaths. Women accounted for about one quarter. Non-Hispanic whites aged 45 to 65 years old had the highest rates.
The agency has also previously reported rate increases of 80 percent among white, middle-aged women since 1999, and of 89 percent among Native Americans. Black men and people over age 75 experienced declining rates since 1999.
If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, or if you are concerned for someone else, here are some helpful resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24 hours)
Suicide prevention resources for parents, guardians and families
Suicide prevention resources for teens
Suicide prevention resources for survivors of suicide loss
More resources and programs at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Read the full CDC report at cdc.gov.