As I am writing this, today (September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day a part of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in the United States. I wanted to take a brief, data science oriented, look at the data on suicide in the US.
Below, is a basic visualization that covers ages 10 to 80+. In looking at trends since 1999, we can quickly see that there has been a general, across-the-board, increase in the death rate by suicide in every age bracket.
We can see that suicide rates among youth have gone up dramatically. While they are not the highest rates in terms of crude numbers, deaths by suicide do account for a high percentage of overall deaths in youth. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10 -24. Not shown in this visualization is the fact that 1st and 3rd leading causes of death for this group are accident and homicide respectively. Together these three leading causes of death account for about 75% of total mortality in the 10 – 24 age range. All three have at least some behavioral health component to them.
We can also clearly see a bulge in the death rate around midlife. This where a dramatic increase in death has been occurring, especially among men. Men in mid and late life have been deeply impacted by mental health related issues in the last decade. Not included in these numbers are the direct and indirect deaths associated with substances such as alcohol and opioids. Again, there is a significant set of behavioral health comorbidities here.
So what is the takeaway from this visualization? First, we need to address suicide as a specific concern across the lifespan. Second, we need to look at behavioral health interventions more broadly as mental, emotional, and behavioral health concerns contribute to a large portion of preventable suffering and death.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of depression, suicide, or self-harm, you can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255. I am privileged to know a few of the people that staff this number, and trust me they are there and willing to help.
If you would like more information about Suicide Awareness Month, you can visit: https://nami.org/suicideawarenessmonth