Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and impacts people of all ages and backgrounds
Between 2000 and 2021, suicide rates in the United States rose 36% before rising another 2.5% just between 2021 to 2022 alone. More than 48,000 people died by suicide in 2021, which boils down to about one death every 11 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That same year, 1.7 million people attempted suicide, while 3.5 million made plans to commit suicide, and another 12.3 million contemplated the act seriously1.
Understanding the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and equipping yourself and loved ones with the right tools to address those at risk could be lifesaving.
Who is at risk?
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), 41% of LGBTQ youth, 22% of high school students, 13% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, 8.5% of American Indian or Alaskan Natives, 8.2% of mixed or multiracial people, 7.4% of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, and 4.8% of US adults experience serious thoughts of suicide annually2.
The LGBTQ community is particularly at risk. Transgender adults are nearly nine-times more likely to attempt suicide compared to the general population, and gay and bisexual youth are four-times more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth. Additionally, while more women attempt suicide than men, men are four-times more likely to die by suicide2.
People with a known mental health condition make up 46% of those who die by suicide. Other risk factors include a family history of suicide, substance abuse, access to firearms, prolonged stress, a recent loss or hardship (such as criminal, legal or financial problems or job loss), or a history of abuse3. According to the CDC, childhood abuse, bullying or sexual violence can lead to higher suicide risk later in life1.
People exhibiting suicidal thoughts may express hopelessness by saying things like “Nothing matters,” or “I wish I wasn’t here,” NAMI shared. Other warning signs could include aggressive behavior, withdrawal from friends and family, dramatic mood swings, impulsive behavior, increased substance use, increased anxiety, talking about being a burden, or irregular sleep3,4.
NAMI recommends calling a health care provider or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, 988, if a loved one starts collecting or saving pills, purchasing a weapon, giving away possessions, organizing personal papers or debts, or saying goodbye2.
In a situation such as suicide, knowledge is power. Being aware of the warning signs — and acting quickly and appropriately if those signs are observed — and knowing who to call in an event is crucial to awareness and prevention.
On a personal level, there are several effective tools for suicide prevention, including addressing stress that leads to suicidal thoughts in a healthy way, such as through self-care, practicing mindfulness, avoiding drugs and alcohol, connecting with community support organizations, and/or confiding in others.
How to support
Suicide is a national health emergency, and understanding how to best handle a suicidal person or situation can improve the outcome of a crisis. NAMI recommends expressing concern and support through open and honest conversation. Be simple and direct in offering support, and avoid starting an argument or debating whether the act is right or wrong. Remain calm and be patient and, if you can, remove the person’s access to weapons or pills.
 National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Suicide Prevention Month.” Accessed Aug. 28, 2023, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Risk-of-Suicide.
 National Alliance on Mental Illness. “Risk of Suicide.” Accessed Aug. 28, 2023, from https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Common-with-Mental-Illness/Risk-of-Suicide.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Suicide Prevention: Risk and Protective Factors.” Accessed Aug. 28, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/suicide/factors/index.html.