Suicide: Shining a Light on Why the Tenth Leading Cause of Death is Growing

When iconic handbag designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef and reporter Anthony Bourdain took their own lives this year, calls to suicide prevention hotlines spiked. Once again, the tenth leading cause of death in the United States sparked a national discussion. Why do roughly 123 people a day across the nation kill themselves?

Since 1999, the overall suicide rate grew by more than 25 percent in the United States. The top three methods were firearms, suffocation and poisoning. The demographics of suicide show that middle-aged adults and the elderly dominate other groups and sub groups.

On average, 44,965 Americans die by suicide annually.
• The highest suicide rate (19.72 percent) was among adults between the ages of 45 and 54.
• Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. White males accounted for 7 of 10 suicides in 2016. The rate of suicide is highest in middle aged white men.
• Individuals ages 85 and over had the second highest suicide rate (18.98 percent), according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
• From 2010 to 2016, suicide rates rose 50 percent for women ages 45-64, and 21 percent for men and boys, according to a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics.
• In 2016, the highest U.S. suicide rate (15.17 percent) was among Whites. The second highest rate (13.37 percent) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Suicide is not a selfish act, but one born out of desperation. For those who are suicidal, life has become meaningless. They may feel that everyone would be better off without them. Their coping skills have reached the critical breaking point. Life is stressful. People of all socioeconomic backgrounds can struggle to balance home, work, school, family, and personal time. However, several health and environmental factors can converge to create a perfect storm of hopelessness and despair.