Is suicide really a problem? How many people die by suicide every year?

Every year over 800,000 people die worldwide as a result of suicide. This is one death every 40 seconds. Beyond this, suicide has a ripple effect that impacts on societies, communities, friends and families who have lost a loved one to suicide. So, yes, suicide really is a serious public health problem.

There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there were likely to be more than 20 others attempting suicide. However, as is the case for the rates of suicide and suicide attempts, there is wide variation in the attempt-to-death ratio and in the case fatality rate of suicide attempts by country, region, sex, age and method.

Talking about suicide does not cause suicide to occur. In fact, it can be an excellent prevention tool. People who are not suicidal reject the idea, while people who may be thinking about it usually welcome the chance to talk about it. Often they are relieved because they feel that someone else recognizes their pain.

Talking breaks the secrecy that surrounds suicidal behavior, and lets people know that help is available. By not talking about suicide, we increase the isolation and despair of individuals thinking about it.

No. It is really important to understand that suicidal behavior occurs in all socioeconomic groups. People of all ages, races, faiths, and cultures die by suicide, as do individuals from all walks of life and all income levels.

Popular, well-connected people who seem to have everything going for them and those who are less well-off both die by suicide. Suicidal youth come from all kinds of families, rich and poor, happy and sad, two-parent and single-parent.

To suggest that suicidal youth come only from “bad,” “sick,” or “neglectful” families is like saying that only these kids get cancer. Historically, our culture has blamed the families of people who die by suicide and this behavior must stop. Suicide can happen in any family. We all must work together to identify and prevent suicidal behavior.

There are almost always warning signs, but unless we know what they are, they can be very difficult to recognize. That is why suicide prevention education is so important. Research has demonstrated that in over 80 percent of deaths by suicide, a warning sign or signs were given.
People who talk about or attempt suicide need immediate attention. They are trying to call attention to their extreme emotional pain. Many believe that we should ignore these “cries for help” and “attention-seeking behaviors” because the attention will only encourage the behaviors. Suicidal individuals are trying to get attention the same way people shout if they are drowning, or are injured.
Yes, suicide may often be prevented. Many people believe that if someone is suicidal, there is nothing that anyone can do to stop them from killing themselves. Some also believe that those who don’t kill themselves on the first attempt will keep trying until they die.

The truth is that most young people face a suicidal crisis only once in a lifetime. A suicidal crisis is usually very brief, lasting from a few hours to a few days. With intervention and help, future attempts may be prevented. Experience and wisdom are gained in solving problems in other ways. While suicide is not always prevented, suicide prevention is ALWAYS worth trying.

Research studies vary greatly in their estimates of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) youth who die by suicide. Recent analyses of research indicates that even though adolescents who report same-sex romantic attractions or relationships are at 2 to 3 times the risk for suicide attempts, the overwhelming majority of these youth report no suicidality at all.

The risk factors of discrimination, victimization, bullying, and so forth, whether gay or straight, no matter what race or ethnicity, are important to consider in suicide prevention. Further research needs to be done on the risk factors as well as the unique strengths that characterize the lives of sexual minority adolescents and young adults.