5 facts about suicide in the U.S.

April 22, 2022

A new poll finds that nearly 7 in 10 (68%) adults feel they are knowledgeable about suicide prevention. Younger adults (85%), parents (79%), Black adults (76%), and Hispanic adults (76%) are all significantly more likely than the mean to indicate they are knowledgeable about suicide prevention. In contrast, Baby Boomers (55%), non-parents (62%), suburban (65%), and rural adults (63%) are all less knowledgeable than the average. 

Only a third of adults report seeing, reading, or hearing about being able to dial the number to reach a trained counselor with the National Suicide Prevention Line. The Federal Communications Commission voted last November to require phone companies to route text messages sent to “988” to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress in the United States. 

The change is meant to help 988 become the three-digit number to use for mental health crises, much like 911 is the number for emergencies, reports Axios. While some areas may be currently able to connect to the Lifeline by dialing 988, this dialing code will be available to everyone across the United States starting on July 16, 2022.

Every day an average of 130 people in America die by suicide. Here are five facts you should know about suicide in the United States:

1. There were 47,511 suicides in 2019, the last year for which data is available. On average, one person commits suicide every 11 minutes.  An average of one elderly person every hour and 41.4 minutes and an average of one young person every two hours and 2.1 minutes killed themselves.

2. Suicide was the overall 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2019. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 35 and 44. (Suicide is not among the 10 leading causes of death among children in the 0-9 year age group nor in adults in the age group 65 years and older.)

3. Many adults think about or attempt suicide. The good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is that more than 90% of people who attempt suicide and survive never go on to die by suicide. In 2019, 12.2 million thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan for suicide, and 1.2 million attempted to take their own life. 

3. Men are more likely to die by suicide than women, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. There are on average 3.7 male deaths by suicide for each female death by suicide. But there are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt.

4. Men are more likely to use deadlier methods, such as firearms or suffocation (firearms are involved in 51% of suicides, while suffocation accounts for 23%). Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide by poisoning (18% of all suicides are by poisoning). 

5. Among ethnicities, American Indians and Alaska Natives tend to have the highest rate of suicides, followed by non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanics tend to have the lowest rate of suicides, while African Americans tend to have the second lowest rate.

If you know someone who is considering suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get your loved one to seek immediate help from his or her doctor or the nearest hospital emergency room. Remove any access they may have to firearms or other potential tools for suicide, including medications. Call 911 or the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).