Utah Leads U.S. in Suicidal Thoughts: Study

This report is the first to present state-level data concerning suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults in the United States.

Every 15 minutes, someone in the United States dies by suicide. And for every person who dies, there are many more who think about, plan, or attempt suicide, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Serious thoughts of suicide range from about 1 in 50 adults in Georgia (2.1 percent) to 1 in 15 in Utah (6.8 percent). For suicide attempts, the range goes from 1 in 1,000 adults in Delaware and Georgia (0.1 percent) to 1 in 67 in Rhode Island (1.5 percent). This report is the first to present state-level data concerning suicidal thoughts and behavior among adults in the United States.

“Suicide is a tragedy for individuals, families, and communities. This report highlights that we have opportunities to intervene before someone dies by suicide. We can identify risks and take action before a suicide attempt takes place,” said Thomas M. Frieden, M.D., director of CDC. “Most people are uncomfortable talking about suicide, but this is not a problem to shroud in secrecy. We need to work together to raise awareness about suicide and learn more about interventions that work to prevent this public health problem.”

CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) studied data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from 2008-2009.

“Suicide is a preventable tragedy,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde. “With this new data we will be able to work more effectively to reach people at risk and help keep them safe.”

Findings include:

  • More than 2.2 million adults (1 percent of adults) reported making suicide plans in the past year, ranging from 0.1 percent in Georgia to 2.8 percent in Rhode Island.
  • More than 1 million adults (0.5 percent of adults) reported attempting suicide in the past year, ranging from 0.1 percent in Delaware and Georgia to 1.5 percent in Rhode Island.
  • The prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, and suicide attempts was significantly higher among young adults aged 18-29 years than it was among adults aged 30 years or older.
  • The prevalence of serious suicidal thoughts was significantly higher among females than it was among males.
  • Suicide rates have consistently been higher in Western states, especially the Rocky Mountain states. In the current report, which looks at nonfatal behavior, the pattern was mixed: adults in the Midwest and West were more likely to have thoughts of suicide than those in the Northeast and South. Adults in the Midwest were more likely to have made suicide plans than those in the South, and suicide attempts did not vary by region.

“Multiple factors contribute to risk for suicidal behavior. The variations identified in this report might reflect differences in the frequency of risk factors and the social, cultural, and economic makeup of the study populations,” said Linda C. Degutis, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “These differences can influence the types of prevention strategies used in communities and the groups included.”

This research underscores the importance of collecting and using local information for prevention purposes. Continued surveillance is needed to design, implement, and evaluate public health policies and programs that can lead to a reduction in morbidity and mortality related to suicide-related thoughts and behaviors. Possible suicide prevention strategies include those designed for broad audiences, such as public education campaigns that focus on improving recognition of suicide risk, and more intensive strategies (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapy) for those who are at heightened risk, such as people who have made suicide attempts. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the cognitive part helps people change thinking patterns, and the behavioral part helps people change the way they react to situations.

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