the shape of leadership

Suicide Is on the Rise in the U.S.

CDC reports 30 percent increase since 1999

Even as recent celebrity deaths highlight the need for suicide prevention, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that suicide rates have increased significantly across the U.S.

TV chef Anthony Bourdain, 61, hanged himself June 8 in a hotel room in France. News of his suicide came just three days after millionaire fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, took her own life. In April, superstar musician and record producer Tim Bergling (better known as Avicii), committed suicide at the age of 28.

According to the CDC, suicide rates in the U.S. rose 30 percent from 1999 to 2016. Significant spikes in suicide rates occurred in 44 states, with 25 states experiencing increases of more than 30 percent.

The CDC reported increased suicide rates among both sexes and within all racial/ethnic groups, urbanization levels, and age groups ranging from 10 to 74. The largest suicide rate increase and the greatest number of suicides occurred among adults aged 45 to 64.

Additionally, emergency room visits for nonfatal self-harm injuries — a risk factor for suicide — increased 42 percent between 2001 and 2016.

The CDC also analyzed suicide decedents from 27 states. Of those, a majority (54 percent) had no known mental health condition. They were also predominantly male (77 percent) and non-Hispanic white (84 percent).

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and one of just three leading causes that are increasing.

Some 20 percent of adult suicide decedents without known mental health conditions and 15 percent of those with known mental health conditions had served in the U.S. military. (In 2016, military veterans made up just 7 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to Pew Research Center.)

Of suicide decedents undergoing toxicology testing, about 41 percent tested positive for alcohol; 41 percent for antidepressants; 30 percent for benzodiazepines, such as Valium; 27 percent for opioids; 23 percent for marijuana; 10 percent for amphetamines; and 6 percent for cocaine.

Firearms were used in roughly half of all suicides (49 percent). Other common methods were hanging/strangulation/suffocation (29 percent) and poisoning (15 percent). The most common drugs used in poisoning suicides were over-the-counter medications (34 percent); opioids (31 percent); antidepressants (27 percent); and benzodiazepines (21 percent).

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the nation and one of just three leading causes that are increasing, the CDC reports. In 2016 alone, there were about 45,000 suicides in the U.S.

According to the CDC, the most common circumstances contributing to suicide in the U.S. are relationship problems, substance abuse, health issues, financial concerns and job stress.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website lists a number of risk factors for suicide, including mental disorders, substance abuse, hopelessness, impulsiveness, a history of trauma or abuse, and a lack of social support.

Warning signs include talking about dying, expressing hopelessness or a sense of feeling trapped, behaving recklessly, experiencing mood swings, and withdrawing, among others. The Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

In addition to pointing people to the hope and healing that Jesus offers, church leaders should familiarize themselves with mental health issues and know when to refer someone for professional help.

Ministers should also be willing to seek help themselves when needed. According to EMERGE Counseling Services, a Christian mental health center based in Akron, Ohio, depression and anxiety were among the top reasons ministers and their spouses sought counseling there from 2010-15.


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