Monday, April 23, 2007

Call to Action

Alright folks--I'm fixing to get on a really big soapbox---so bear with me---

Working in the mental health field for these past 7 years has allowed me to get to know a wide variety of people. Mental illness crosses all socioeconomically, ethnic barriers. I doesn't matter the color of your skin or how much money you have in the bank. It can strike without warning.

As part of the FY 2008 budget now pending before Congress, a bipartisan coalition of senators – led by Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) – are seeking full funding for youth suicide prevention programs under the Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Memorial Act. Advocates are strongly encouraged to contact their senators and urge them to join Senators Dodd and Smith and sign on to their letter urging $40 million for FY 2008 for programs under the Garrett Lee Smith Act. The deadline for signing on to the Dodd-Smith letter is April 25.
It is a very simple forwm to fill out. It will automatically be forwarded to your localreps.

Just to give you little background on how prevalent suicide can be, here are some statitcs:

National Statistics


  • Over 30,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year.
  • In 2004 (latest available date), there were 32,439 reported suicide deaths.
  • Suicide is fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in the U.S., with approximately 26,500 suicides.
  • Currently, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.A person dies by suicide about every 16 minutes in the U.S.
  • An attempt is estimated to be made once every minute.
  • Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but twice as many females as males attempt suicide.
  • Every day, approximately 80 Americans take their own life, and 1,500 more attempt to do so.


  • Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.
  • Between the mid-1950s and the late 1970s, the suicide rate among U.S. males aged 15-24 more than tripled (from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1955 to 21.3 in 1977).
  • Among females aged 15-24, the rate more than doubled during this period (from 2.0 to 5.2). The youth suicide rate generally leveled off during the 1980s and early 1990s, and since the mid-1990s has been steadily decreasing.
  • Among young people aged 10-14 years, the rate has doubled in the last two decades.
  • Between 1980-1996, the suicide rate for African-American males aged 15-19 has also doubled. Risk factors for suicide among the young include suicidal thoughts, psychiatric disorders (such as depression, impulsive aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, certain anxiety disorders), drug and/or alcohol abuse and previous suicide attempts, with the risk increased if there is situational stress and access to firearms.

Older People

  • The suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
  • The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
  • The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 40-54 years old.
  • About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician within a few months of their death.
  • Six to 9 percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
  • More than 30 percent of patients suffering from major depression report suicidal ideation.
  • Risk factors for suicide among the elderly include: a previous attempt, the presence of a mental illness, the presence of a physical illness, social isolation (some studies have shown this is especially so in older males who are recently widowed) and access to means, such as the availability of firearms in the home.


  • Over 60 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.
  • If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
  • Depression affects nearly 10 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year, or more than 19 million people.
  • More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease (7 million), cancer (6 million) and AIDS (200,000) combined.
  • About 15 percent of the population will suffer from clinical depression at some time during their lifetime.
  • Thirty percent of all clinically depressed patients attempt suicide; half of them ultimately die by suicide.
  • Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses.
  • Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
  • But first, depression has to be recognized.

Alcohol and Suicide

  • Ninety-six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their substance abuse up to the end of their lives.
  • Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides.
  • Approximately 7 percent of those with alcohol dependence will die by suicide.Firearms and Suicide
    Although most gun owners reportedly keep a firearm in their home for "protection" or "self defense," 83 percent of gun-related deaths in these homes are the result of a suicide, often by someone other than the gun owner.
  • Firearms are used in more suicides than homicides.
  • Death by firearms is the fastest growing method of suicide.
  • Firearms account for 60 percent of all suicides.

Medical Illness and Suicide

  • Patients who desire an early death during a serious or terminal illness are usually suffering from a treatable depressive condition.
  • People with AIDS have a suicide risk up to 20 times that of the general population.
  • Studies indicate that the best way to prevent suicide is through the early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

    You can check out the rates for your particular state here and for the world here.

Suicide is not a way to get attention as is so commonlly believed. Most would rather die than to continue living their life. Until we get a better understanding of mental illness as a whole--the suicide rate will continue to rise.

Here are some warning sign of suicide:

Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without any outward warning, most people who are suicidal do give warnings. Prevent the suicide of loved ones by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously and knowing how to respond to them.

Warning signs of suicide include:

Observable signs of serious depression:

  • Unrelenting low mood
  • Pessimism
  • Hopelessness
  • Desperation
  • Anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension
  • Withdrawal
  • Sleep problems
    Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
    Recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
    Threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
Making a plan:

  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm
  • Obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications
    Unexpected rage or anger
The emotional crises that usually precede suicide are often recognizable and treatable. Although most depressed people are not suicidal, most suicidal people are depressed. Serious depression can be manifested in obvious sadness, but often it is rather expressed as a loss of pleasure or withdrawal from activities that had been enjoyable. One can help prevent suicide through early recognition and treatment of depression and other psychiatric illnesses.

I'm sure that each and everyone of us has been touched by suicide at one time in our lives


Sherrie said...

Hey BG, good post, I'd sign the form but somehow I don't think it would help!

I was actually going to post about suicide and the stats in Australia a while ago but I have been too distracted with Maya.

I had to get Garry rushed to hospital twice just a few days apart in february, hes in a bad way again but no more attempts yet but I'm expecting it. Depression can be very nasty.

I hope everyone from the US signs the form for you!

Cindy said...

- Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among those 5-14 years old.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

That is so scarey!!!

ALL of the numbers are scarey!!

I was listening to NPR today and the topic was forced treatment in mental health issues. Very interesting!

BamaGal said...

Sherrie--if Garry needs to talk with someone who's been there done that--I'd be more than willing to have him email me---in doing some research for this post I also looked at the international statistics---AU is ranked among the highest in the world per capita for suicide

Cindy ----the rates are staggering---most who have never been in that deep dark hole can never beging to comprehend why someone would chose to end their own life---but it happens and all too frequently---

The forced treatment of those who are noncompliant with treatment is something I've been working on---stay tuned---it has the mental health field divided---

Sherrie said...

Yeah our rates for males especially are pretty bad, especially in rural areas due to our drought we are experiencing. I thought I had a draft of the post I was working on saved on my blog but its not there. Bummer as I am pretty sure I had all the stats there, they wern't very good!

I know in 2005 males were 4 times more likely and the highest rates for women and men fell in the middle aged groups (30+) which suprised me as I was expecting it to be youth.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear BG,
Nice work on the post! That's great information to share although I think I've missed the deadline but I'll check. Also, thanks for all the posts on my blogs. I didn't realize you'd posted on the Honk blog until just now. Very insightful! Thanks. You bring a different perspective to things because of the work you do. I appreciate it.