For those of you who don’t use it, the website Quora is an absolute goldmine for information on a wide variety of topics. It allows you to ask and answer questions by individuals who all use their real names, and who have to identify their area of expertise (their reason for knowing the answer.)
One of the questions asked was “What are some striking facts or figures about suicide?” My answer is the basis for this post. I identify a number of suicide facts and figures with citations. These may make useful additions to presentations that you do in the future.
We know that in the United States, about 50% of suicide deaths are by firearm (CDC, 2016). This accounts for the startling statistic that 60% of people who attempt suicide will die on their first attempt (Bostwick, et. al., 2016)
Of those that survive, 70% of those who live will never go on to have a second attempt, hopefully because they get the help that they need. About 23% will go on to attempt again (sometimes repeatedly) and live, while 7% will die on a future attempt. (Owens, Horrocks & House, 2002)
Gun owners in particular at much higher risk of suicide. We know that gun owners are 57 times more likely to die by suicide within 7 days of their purchase (likely because they purchased it specifically intent on suicide), and 7 times more likely within the first year as non-gun-owners. (Wintermule, et. al., 1999) Because of the high risk gun owners have for dying by suicide, a course like Counseling on Access to Lethal Means (CALM) can be extremely useful in having this difficult conversation.
Depending on the type of gun and other variables, 85-98% of firearm suicide attempts will end in death, while only about 2% of overdoses will end in death. (Elnour & Harrison, 2008).
Women attempt suicide about 3 times as frequently as men do (Vijayakumar, 2015) but tend to die 3 times more frequently (Varnik, 2012) chiefly because of their use of more lethal methods like firearm and hanging, when compared to women who more commonly use overdose.
Suicide is most common in the middle ages, accounting for 54% of suicides in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2013) and 51% of suicides in the United States (CDC, 2011).
It’s been suggested that up to 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (Bertole & Fleischmann, 2002). Although this figure has been challenged because it is based on psychiatric autopsies (reviews with those left behind) that might be vulnerable to bias, it is common enough to be valuable.
Did I miss any suicide facts and figures that you’d like to see? Let me know and I’ll update the article. Thanks all!
Bertolote, J.M. & Fleischmann, A. (2002) Suicide and psychiatric diagnosis: a worldwide perspective. World Psychiatry. 1(3): 181-185.
Bostwick, J. M., Pabbati, C., Geske, J. R., & McKean, A. J. (2016). Suicide attempt as a risk factor for completed suicide: Even more lethal than we knew. American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(11), 1094–1100.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Online]. (2013, 2011) National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC (producer). Available from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016) National Vital Statistics Report. 65(4). Retrieved on September 19, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_04.pdf
Elnour, A.A. & Harrison, J. (2008) Lethality of suicide methods. Journal of Injury Prevention. 14(1). 39-45. doi: 10.1136/ip.2007.016246.
Vijayakumar, L. (2015) Suicide in women. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 57(Supp. 2). S233-S238. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.161484.
Owens, D., Horrocks, J. & House, A. (2002) Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review. British Journal of Psychiatry. 181. 193-199.
Statistics Canada. (2013) CANSIM, table 102-0551 and Catalogue no. 84F0209X. Retrieved from http://www5.statcan.gc.ca/cansim/a26?id=1020551&
Varnik, P. (2012) Suicide in the World. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 9(3). 760-771. doi: 10.3390/ijerph9030760
Wintemute, G.J., Parham, C.A., Beaumont, J.J., Wright, M., & Drake, C. (1999) Mortality among recent purchasers of handguns. New England Journal of Medicine. 341(21):1583-9