If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

The newest report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shows the scope of mental health problems in the United States and some startling facts about suicide.

  • 50 percent of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue.
  • Only 43.3 percent of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2018.
  • 50.6% of U.S. youth aged 6-17 with a mental health disorder received treatment in 2016.
  • 60% of U.S. counties do not have a single practicing psychiatrist.
  • 46% of people who die by suicide had a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • 90% of people who die by suicide had shown symptoms of a mental health condition, according to interviews with family, friends and medical professionals (also known as psychological autopsy).
  • Suicide is the #2 cause of death among people aged 10 – 34 in the U.S.

Can mental illness and suicidal thoughts really begin at such young ages? Yes. I know people personally who lost loved ones to suicide at ages seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, and as older teens and young adults. This is the reality too many families face. Our children and young people can have real problems at a time in life when many changes affect them, making it easy for us to dismiss behavior and moods as just a normal part of growing up, changes like relationship or family issues; lack of education about what is happening to them and how to manage their lives now; little support; violence or abuse issues, physical illness; financial or legal difficulties. Love and support are important but cannot solve mental health problems by themselves.

Providing care and knowing what to do can be very difficult. Families and friends are also hurt and left, in many cases, without support and information they need. Caregiving can affect a family’s mental and physical health as well as any financial resources they may have. The confusion and uncertainty are ongoing stresses that often leave them feeling helpless and torn between supporting the ill member or trying to set boundaries and using “tough love.” The NAMI website is a good starting point. There, families can search for local chapters as well as read a lot of good information. Other organizations are beginning to move into communities, too.

Quality care is not available everywhere. Much depends on where you live. Sometimes, resources are stretched thin. And without insurance or enough insurance, access to care is restricted. Other factors that affect the kind of care received are a person’s own denial, disbelief, and any medication side effects he experiences. All can convince him that there is no illness or that he can go it alone. Families are more limited, too, in the influence they have on care once a young person reaches adulthood.

There’s more. The complete data breakdown is available on NAMI’s website. However, most people with mental illnesses, behavior disorders, and emotional issues do not end their lives. Suicide is complex, and “reasons” that might seem apparent often do not apply in isolation. Some people who end their lives have a lack of life experience, poor or nonexistent coping skills, or less impulse control, whether due to substance abuse or not. And those who lose loved ones to suicide, though they are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts themselves, do not usually attempt or resort to suicide.

  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 31% since 2001.
  • 11.3% of U.S. adults with mental illness had no insurance coverage in 2018.
  • Across the U.S. economy, serious mental illness causes $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Are these statistics okay? Can we do better? Can we be there, listen, and vote to fund programs that both educate citizens about suicide and provide aftercare? Individually, we can remember those who need us after everyone else has returned to “normal” life. As communities, we can keep fighting to make changes that foster life and work beyond this year to offer specific help that includes families, friends, churches, schools, colleges, and other organizations.

Suicide never takes a holiday. We can offer support to related groups and nonprofits and speak out against undeserved stigma with our voices and votes. We can mean it. If you are managing mental health issues, you can add your voice to others who are supporting improved care and increased options. You can tell your story and share what you’ve learned. Together, we can do better.


Mental Health by the Numbers. (2020 February) Retrieved from https://nami.org/mhstats