More people died from suicide in the United States last year than any other year on record, according to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At least 49,449 lives were lost due to intentional self-harm in 2022 — nearly 15 deaths for every 100,000 people.
The suicide rate spiked in 2021, reversing two years of decline. And with the continued increase in 2022, rates surpassed the previous record from 2018.
Last year’s suicide rate — 14.9 deaths for every 100,000 people — is 5% higher than 2018’s previous record high of 14.2 deaths for every 100,000 people and marks a 10% jump over the two years.
“I think it’s important to realize we’ve seen these increases for many, many years,” Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC’s chief medical officer, said on an episode of SiriusXM’s “Doctor Radio Reports” that aired Thursday. “There was a slight decline in 2019 and 2020, but really over the past 15 years, we’ve been on this trajectory. And I know we can prevent this. I know we can intervene. There’s much that can be done, and I think it’s de-stigmatizing mental health issues, realizing that many people are at risk, and it’s not just mental health. … Not everybody who dies from suicide has a mental health issue. It could be a precipitating factor that led to it.”
The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics compiles data that states and other jurisdictions report into the National Vital Statistics System each month. The latest update, published Thursday, represents a “set of provisional data for 2022,” but data won’t be final until later in the year.
Suicide rose to the 11th leading cause of death in 2021, and provisional data for 2022 shows the same. It falls just below chronic liver disease and above influenza and pneumonia.
Firearms were involved in more than half of all suicides in 2022, the provisional data shows.
How to get help
A separate report, published in June by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, found that gun-related suicides were the driving factor behind the recent rise in suicide rates overall. The rate of suicides involving guns rose 10% between 2019 and 2021, but the rate for those that did not involve guns actually dropped 8% in the same timeframe.
White men, along with those 75 and older, were most at risk of gun suicide in 2021, according to the JHU report.
Last month marked the first anniversary of the launch of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, a transition from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to a simpler, three-digit dial code – 988 – that’s intended to be easier to remember, like 911 for emergency medical services.
Nearly 5 million calls, texts and online chat messages have been answered through 988 in the year since its launch, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. About a fifth of those contacts were linked to the Veterans Crisis Line, which military members, veterans and their families can reach by dialing 988 and pressing option 1.
But the vast majority of adults in the US don’t know that they can call, text or send a chat online to 988 to reach licensed counselors trained to de-escalate a crisis, provide emotional support or connect them with additional mental health resources.
More than 80% of adults were either unfamiliar with or had never heard of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, according to a poll released by the National Alliance on Mental Illness last month.
And there’s a call for more crisis counselors as demand rises.
Nine out 10 adults in the US think the country is experiencing a mental health crisis, according to a survey from last fall that CNN conducted in partnership with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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More than 1 in 5 adults described their own mental health as only “fair” or “poor,” including extra-large shares of adults under the age of 30, adults who identify as LGBT and those with an annual income of less than $40,000. A third of all adults said they felt anxious always or often over the course of the past year, including more than half of LGBT adults and those under 30. About 1 in 5 adults said they were often or always depressed or lonely over the past year, too.
There are things everyone can do to help people who are struggling, Houry said. “Asking and talking about suicide is really important. … If somebody does say that they’re thinking about suicide, really help keep them safe. If you have medicines or a firearm in the home, make sure that those are secured. Be there. If you ask somebody about it, they disclose any stressors, you’ve gotta be there for them. And that really helps them prove and increase that connectedness and then help them connect, whether it’s to a medical professional, a psychiatrist or 988. And then follow up. … If you’ve reached out to a friend or a family member and done this, follow up and see how they’re doing.”