Nearly 10 Million Americans Seriously Considered Suicide in 2015

By John Lavitt 09/19/16

A new SAMHSA report reveals that overall rates of suicide have increased by 27% since 2000. 

Nearly 10 Million Americans Seriously Considered Suicide in 2015
Photo via NAMI

To mark National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a comprehensive report on suicide statistics for 2015. The SAMHSA report reveals a surprisingly high number of U.S. citizens contemplating and even seriously planning for a suicide attempt. During the course of a single year, 9.8 million American adults seriously considered suicide as a realistic option, with 2.7 million making actual plans. 

Although about 42,000 people die from suicide annually in the United States, another 1.4 million made non-fatal suicide attempts in 2015. Despite the (relatively) low overall fatality percentage, rates of suicide have increased by 27% since 2000. 

Let’s break down the numbers into population percentages. According to the report, in 2015, 4% of adults over the age of 18 considered killing themselves. In the same time span, 1.1% of adults made suicide plans, while 0.6% made non-fatal attempts at suicide. Often the result of mental health conditions that prey on vulnerable populations, suicide has become a leading cause of death among young people.

The report shows that only 49% of those who had seriously contemplated suicide actually received mental health treatment in the past year. Those who made non-fatal suicide attempts fared better, with 60.4% going on to receive treatment. 

The goal of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is to raise awareness about suicide prevention and the resources available. The two main questions being addressed are how to help someone at risk and how to talk about suicide with such a person, whether they are a loved one, a friend or a colleague, without aggravating the risk factors. SAMHSA is seeking $88 million in funding in 2017 to expand suicide prevention efforts across the country.

SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto explained the need for more resources. “We must continue to raise awareness that suicide is preventable, and provide effective, science-based services to everyone who needs it," she said in a press release

SAMHSA published a list of the potential warning signs that imply a real risk for suicide. 

Here are several of them:

• Feeling hopeless or claiming to have no reason to live

• The sensation of being trapped or in constant psychological pain

• Feeling like you have become a burden to others

• Using alcohol or drugs abusively to escape the pain

• Reckless behavior and risk taking for no apparent reason

• Drastic shift in sleep patterns (either too much or too little)

• Isolating from friends and family for no apparent reason

• Extreme dark mood swings from anger to depression

Although such indicators do not necessarily imply suicidal ideation, multiple examples of these factors, when seen in concert, should raise a red flag.

The SAMHSA report also shows a significant upward swing in the rate of non-fatal suicide attempts for young females from 1.5% in 2014 to 2% in 2015.

Alcohol and illicit drug use led to a substantial increase in suicidal thoughts, the making of suicidal plans, and the leap into non-fatal suicide attempts, when compared to people who did not use alcohol and drugs. 

SAMHSA offers a toll free 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—(800) 273-TALK—to provide immediate help to people experiencing emotional distress or actively considering suicide.

For more information and help for yourself or someone you know, please check out SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center. After all, suicide is one terrible decision that can never be taken back. 

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.