Suicide is an incredibly complicated issue.
There are an overwhelming number of contributing factors, and it affects every demographic regardless of age, race, or social class. Factors affecting certain communities may, however, lead to higher suicidal ideation and behavior within those demographics.
In the United States, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people aged 15-24, and it is estimated to claim the lives of roughly 125 Americans every day. Risk factors are many and varied. They include, but are not limited to:
- Mental illness
- Job loss or severe financial distress
- Chronic illness or pain
- Relationship loss
- Social isolation
- Suicide of a friend or family member
Statistics can be misleading on which demographics are most at risk of suicide. Among the highest-risk groups overall (teenagers and young adults), females are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide but males make up the majority of actual suicides.
This is due to a handful of different factors, most significantly social stigma preventing many males from seeking help when experiencing distress.
The likelihood of a teenager or young adult attempting suicide also rises significantly if that person is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, especially if they are lacking sufficient family or community support.
The risk can be greatly reduced if a person is surrounded by family or friends who are openly supportive and affirming of their sexuality or gender identity. Even more so if medical and community resources for helping them understand and affirm their identity are widely available.
Overall, in the U.S. there are around 45,000 suicides each year out of 1.1 million yearly suicide attempts. There are many organizations dedicated to keeping that number on a steady decline, including:
- The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- The National Institute of Mental Health
- The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Overwhelmingly, the best means of early suicide prevention are:
- When the victim recognizes they are in distress and reaches out for help.
- When loved ones take notice of worrying behaviors and take steps to intervene and provide support for the victim.
These methods are not guaranteed, and there is still a very long way to go in managing this complex and serious public health issue, but education and awareness are an important first step.
No matter how overwhelming it may feel, intervention IS effective, and the more we continue to do so, the more lives will be saved. If you or a loved one are currently struggling with thoughts of self-harm, please stop right now and dial 988 on your phone, or text HOME to 741-741 to speak with a crisis counselor.