The suicide rate in the U.S. has dramatically increased in all but one state since 1999 and is now the 10th leading cause of death in the country, a report has found.
In 2016, almost 45,000 people over 10 years old committed suicide, causing an average of more than 123 suicides a day, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). White males accounted for 70 percent of them.
The report was published after the U.S. was shocked by the suicide of two celebrities: renowned chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade, as well as that of Marco Antonio Muñoz, a Honduran father that took his life after being separated from his child and wife by immigration authorities.
“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans – and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat, “From individuals and communities to employers and healthcare professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide.”
CDC researchers found that more than half of the people that committed suicide between 1999 and 2016 didn't have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of the death, and cited “relationship problems or loss, substance misuse; physical health problems; and job, money, legal or housing stress” as common factors that contribute to the risk of suicide.
Other factors like race, sex, and economic status also pushed individuals to make the decision.
In an interview with Democracy Now!, Dr. John Mann, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University, told Amy Goodman that suicide rates are higher in places with little psychiatric services, such as North Dakota, where the rate increased 57 percent in the last years.
“People don’t have access to healthcare. Why does that matter for suicide? It matters because suicide, in the majority of cases, is a complication of an untreated psychiatric illness,” said Mann.
The most recent overall suicide rates (2014-2016) varied four-fold; from 6.9 per 100,000 residents per year in Washington to 29.2 per 100,000 residents in Montana. The suicide rates increased in all states but Nevada, and they increased by more than 30 percent in 25 states.
Numbers and statistics can explain a lot, but Marco Antonio Muñoz died by suicide after being separated from his wife and child by U.S. authorities. Photo | Starr County Sheriff's Office
Economic status, of course, also affects access to health care. “Part of the reason for those differences is the quality of medical care and the availability of medical care. But even if you have medical care available, part of the reason for the difference in suicide rates is related to per capita income,” Mann said.
But he recognizes that other social conditions also contribute to suicide. For example, belonging to an Indigenous group, whether it's in the U.S., Canada or Australia, increases the risk of it.
“Somehow these groups are particularly at risk. Now, it’s true that they also have greater problems with things like substance use and alcohol use disorders, etc., etc. But they’re definitely at greater risk.”
Also, the study found out that firearms were the most common method of suicide and that states with more strict gun control laws have lower suicide rates, like New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Connecticut.
“Homes with guns have more firearm suicides than homes without guns. Your chance of getting killed with a gun or a family member dying with a gun in a suicide is much greater than any chance of an intruder getting killed with that gun. So, guns don’t make people safe,” the doctor added.