Facts about Suicide

John M. Grohol, Psy.D. &
the National Institute of Mental Health
04 Apr 2005

Men are four times more likely than woman to die by suicide, but women try to commit suicide twice as often as men (they're just unsuccessful). Such attempts are often viewed as a "cry for help" rather than an actual attempt to end the person's life.

Guns are the most commonly-used method for committing suicide. Using a gun to kill oneself accounted for nearly 60 percent of suicides in 1996. Seventy-three percent of all suicides are committed by white men, and 79 percent of all firearm suicides are committed by white men. The highest suicide rate was for white men older than 85 years of age -- 65.3 per 100,000 persons.

Children, Adolescents and Young Adults

During the last several decades, the suicide rate in young people has increased dramatically. In 1996, suicide was the 3rd leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year olds -- 12.2 of every 100,000 people -- following unintentional injuries and homicide.

Suicide was the fourth leading cause in 10- to 14-year-olds, with 298 deaths among 18,949,000 children in this age group. For adolescents age 15 to 19, there were 1,817 deaths among 18,644,000 adolescents. The gender ratio in this age group was 5 to 1 (males:females). Among young people 20 to 24 years of age, there were 2,541 deaths among 17,562,000 people in this age group. The gender ratio in this age group was 7 to 1 (males: females).

Attempted Suicides

No national surveillance data on attempted suicide are available; however, reliable scientific research has found that:

  • There are an estimated eight to 25 attempted suicides to one completion; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and the elderly.

  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in adults are depression, alcohol abuse, cocaine use, and separation or divorce.

  • The strongest risk factors for attempted suicide in youth are depression, alcohol or other drug use disorder, and aggressive or disruptive behaviors.

  • The majority of suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress that need to be addressed, and not just a harmless bid for attention. A suicidal person should not be left alone and needs immediate mental health treatment.

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Last updated: 29 Mar 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2015
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