Current data shows that overall suicide rates in the United States are at their highest since 1941. In 2022 suicide was the leading cause of death in people ages 25-44, ending the lives of approximately 49,500 people nationwide. As of 2020, suicide was the 12th most common cause of death overall in North Dakota, and national suicide rates, while decreased in 2019 and 2020, showed a sharp and sustained increase in 2021. Minnesota's suicide rates have steadily increased over the past 20 years as well, cited by Minnesota Department of Health as the 8th leading cause of death between 2011 and 2021. The CDC is placing more emphasis on suicide prevention, and in 2022 implemented 988, a national crisis line. The Minnesota Department of Health also released a plan to work toward reducing suicides over the next 4 years.
Although overall suicide rates are rising, an increase in discussions with young people regarding suicide may be a contributing factor to an 8% decrease in suicides in the 10-24 age group in 2022. Suicide in older adults (age 45+) has increased by about the same amount. The higher incidence in this age group is thought to be related to multiple factors such as loneliness, loss of independence, financial difficulty, and chronic illness.
Suicide risk factors are multifactorial, including personal, family, community related, and societal. Identifying risk factors is an important part of prevention.
Common Factors That Increase Risk of Suicide
Personal Risk Factors:
- Diagnosed Depression, Bipolar Disorder or Psychosis
- History of suicide attempt
- Job loss
- Chronic pain/debilitating illness
- Financial or legal issues
- Substance use/abuse
- Access to lethal means
- Social isolation
Family/Relationship Risk Factors:
- Domestic violence
- History of childhood abuse or neglect
- Loss of relationship
Community/Societal Risk Factors:
- Cultural stigmas that limit discussion of mental health
- Limited access to resources
- Certain media portrayals of suicide
- Community violence
Ways to Help Prevent Suicide
Just as there are multiple factors that increase suicide risk, there are also protective factors. These influential factors that are believed or statistically shown to prevent or decrease the likelihood of suicide.
Individual Protective Factors:
- Current Mental Health Treatment
- Effective coping skills and strategies
- Emotional bond with pets
- Sense of purpose in life
Family/Relationship Protective Factors:
- Positive relationships with family and friends
- Feelings of belonging
Community/Societal Protective Factors
Common Signs of Suicidal Thoughts
What can we do? Often there may be warning signs that someone is struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts. These signs may include:
- Expressing a lack of purpose or worth
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Reckless behavior and/or increased alcohol or drug use
- Talking about feeling trapped or like a burden to others
People often feel uncomfortable talking about suicide. However, asking a person whether they are thinking about suicide can be helpful.
Specific examples of such questions include:
- Are you feeling sad or depressed?
- Are you thinking of hurting or killing yourself?
- Have you ever thought about hurting or killing yourself?
Rather than putting thoughts in a person’s head, these questions can provide assurance that somebody cares and will give the person the chance to talk about problems.
Guide to Depression
It is always best to err on the side of caution and safety. Any person with suicidal thoughts or plans should be evaluated immediately by a trained and qualified mental health professional.
Lindsey Hiatt, PA-C
St. Sophie's Psychiatric Center
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At Saint Sophie's Psychiatric Center, we are passionate about offering the highest quality care to patients. This often is focused on medication management. We offer free computerized testing for ADHD, and psychotherapy (individual, couples, and family). We offer telehealth and in-person appointments to patients in North Dakota and Minnesota. Contact us today to set up an appointment by filling out a contact form or calling our help desk at (701) 365-4488.