FACT CHECK: Are Suicide Rates Rising Across The US?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

Several politicians on Twitter claimed that suicide rates are rising across the U.S.

Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016, including an increase of 29% in NY. We must commit funding to help those suffering from mental health conditions and let them know that they are not alone. #SuicidePrevention Day https://t.co/bg3YZf1B8h

— Antonio Delgado (@DelgadoforNY19) September 10, 2018

“Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016, including an increase of 29% in NY,” said New York congressional candidate Antonio Delgado.

Suicide rates are up across gender and age in the US. Take a minute on World Suicide Prevention Day today and tell someone that they are important to you- it could save a life. Communities like Princeton work… https://t.co/WBkemjvUXZ

— Sara Dady (@Sara4Congress) September 10, 2018

“Suicide rates are up across gender and age in the US,” tweeted Illinois congressional candidate Sara Dady.

According to @CDCgov, suicide rates jumped by 58% in ND btwn 1999-2016—the largest statewide increase in the US. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in North Dakota across all ages, & the 2nd leading cause of death for youth.

— Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (@SenatorHeitkamp) September 10, 2018

“According to @CDCgov, suicide rates jumped by 58% in ND btwn 1999-2016—the largest statewide increase in the US,” said North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Verdict: True

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report that found that from 1999 to 2016 suicide rates increased in 49 states.

Fact Check:

Sept. 10 marked the 16th annual World Suicide Prevention Day, leading many Twitter users to voice concern over rising suicide rates in the U.S.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the country and has steadily risen for 17 years. The suicide rate nationally increased from 10.5 per 100,000 people in 1999 to 13.4 per 100,000 people in 2016 – a 28 percent increase.

There is no consensus as to what has caused the increase, and some have called for a greater investment in research to study the problem.

“It’s a crisis of priority,” April Foreman, a licensed psychologist and board member of the American Association of Suicidology, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have not been prioritizing the science or the healthcare for people at risk at the rate the problem deserves. We spend the same on funding for suicide research as we do for smallpox. Zero Americans have died from smallpox in the last couple decades while 120 Americans die every day from suicide.”

Suicide is often associated with mental health, yet according to the National Violent Death Reporting System, 54 percent of those who committed suicide in 2015 did not have a diagnosed mental illness.

The CDC is quick to point out that suicide is rarely caused by a single factor. Relationship problems, substance abuse, physical health, financial issues and other stressors can all play a role in a person’s decision to commit suicide.

Studies show that “suicide contagion” – the idea that exposure to suicide may increase the chances of suicide for some – could also be a contributing factor. The Wall Street Journal reported that suicide hotline calls jumped 25 percent in the days following the apparent suicide of handbag designer Kate Spade.

“Direct and indirect exposure to suicidal behavior has been shown to precede an increase in suicidal behavior in persons at risk for suicide, especially in adolescents and young adults,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services website.

Age, gender and ethnicity are also factors. Men are more than three times as likely to commit suicide than women, and white males made up seven out of every 10 suicides in 2016.

Among the 49 states that saw an increase in suicide, North Dakota had the biggest jump with a 57.6 percent increase from 1999 to 2016. Nevada was the only state that didn’t see an increase, and instead experienced a 1 percent decline.

In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans committed suicide – about 123 a day and more than double the number of homicides. Firearms were the most common method of suicide, accounting for about half of all deaths.

If you or someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter

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