Friday, March 25, 2005

Why Do So Many Young Americans Kill Themselves?

According to the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), the rate of youth suicides has tripled since the 1950s in the US. Today, suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 and 24. More teenagers and young adults die of suicide in the US than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

The US National Institute of Health (NIH) explains that "suicide deaths outnumber homicide deaths by five to three." While 84 people commit suicide every day in America, still more alarming is that three suicides are attempted every two seconds in this country. The NIH says that "it has been estimated that there may be from 8 to 25 attempted suicides per every suicide death."

In the year 2000 alone, 29,319 Americans ended their lives in a single year. Among those are 9,084 teenagers and young adults. Also consider that a total of around 500,000 people (that's half a million!!) attempt suicide in America every year. Just to put these numbers into perspective, recall that some 3,000 people died as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that close to 1,500 soldiers died as a result of war in Iraq.

Suicide in America is a serious public health problem with devastating effects for thousands of families. It begs to ask: Why do so many people decide to commit suicide in one of the richest, most prosperous, and freest countries on earth?

Click on the chart below to see suicide statistics by age group and gender in the US.

Posted by Hello


Anonymous Nadir said...

The numbers seem high and alarming, but compared to what? The U.S is a huge country; Is half million a big number when you take the total population in consideration. Is it possible to compare the suicide rate in the U.S to China or India for instance, do other countries have the same level of sophistication when it comes to Data, studies, research and most importantly transparency? What I’m trying to say is, is there a bigger picture to look at to conclude that in fact suicide is a pressing issue? When we live by high standards, every issue seems important because we can’t settle for less than perfect.

When suicide comes up, depression comes to mind. The two prime reasons that a person becomes depressed, are a loss of control, over their life and of their emotions, and secondly a loss of a positive sense of their future (loss of hope). Great, what if I claim that people chose to commit suicide because they want to, and it’s nobody’s fault! I really believe that people in this country do stupid things because they are allowed and chose to. In other parts of the world people have more to worry about than their emotions. Survival is an every day mission, they worry about food, safety and other basic needs, their dreams and expectations are limited and their lives are simple. Heck there are no tall buildings to jump from (ok I’ll cut the crap).

Seriously, I worry more about this mounting wave of suicide culture in the Middle East, it affects our lives more than the suicide of Beavis who found his mom having sex with his best friend Butt-head, in the attic. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m down sizing the problem and need to learn more about it. My two cents

March 25, 2005

Blogger laurenbove said...

Seriously: I think it comes down to too much crappy sugary carby food and not enough excercise.

No, I'm not crazy. It's true! The American diet (mine included) is horrendous and leads to obeseity and diabetes. Lack of excercise only creates a fertile ground for these issues and of course depression is a natural precipitate of no excercise and sugar brain overload.

My answer: Eat food that looks as close to the original thing it was made from as possible and excercise at least an hour a day, 3-4 times a week.

Oh, yeah...and get outside to fill up on vitamin D. You need sunshine or at least natural light every single day.

Over and Out, 10-4, and cheers!

March 25, 2005

Anonymous Nadir said...

HOoWa! Simply genius.
Highly intelligent or stand-up comedian, maybe both? I’m not a profiler, but I did stay at Holiday Inn for couple of days.
The story goes like this ..
One day I got on the bus, and when I stepped in, I saw the most gorgeous blond Chinese girl...I sat beside her. I said, "Hi," and she said, "Hi," and then I said, "Nice day, isn't it?," and she said, "I saw my analyst today and he says I have a problem." So I asked, "What's the problem?" She replied, "I can't tell you. I don't even know you..." I said, "Well sometimes it's good to tell your problems to a perfect stranger on a bus." So she said, "Well, my analyst said I'm a nymphomaniac and I only like Jewish cowboys...by the way, my name is Dennis." I said, "Hello, Dennis. My name is Bucky Goldstein..."

Roger. Good times!

March 26, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Very good comments Nadir. My intent was to present the numbers for the US as a starting point in order to spur exactly the kind of discussion you have put forward.

You are absolutely right. It helps to put those numbers into a global context and see how they compare to other nations. According to 2004 data published by the World Health Organization (WHO), the largest suicide rates are found in Russia and ex-soviet republics (Lithuania is the worst with 93.8 suicides per 100,000 people). Not far is Japan which is ranked 12th in the world (48.6 suicides per 100,000 people). Then Come several western European countries including Belgium, France and Switzerland with rates in the low 40s - high 30s. China is ranked 28th with a suicide rate of 27.8 per 100,000 people. The US is in 45th place with a suicide rate of 21.1.

Your comment about accuracy and credibility of data in different countries is most appropriate. The WHO data provides the latest survey dates and explains data collection methodology in its reports. And as you may have guessed, they vary. Link is: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/

However, as a member of the US community, I find that it is our obligation to care for the wellbeing of this nation regardless of whether worse situations are observed in other parts of the world. Therefore, I find the number of suicide deaths in the US to be astounding, especially knowing that this is a rich and free nation. I must also say that it is the US government (NIH and CDC) that qualify this issue as a ‘serious public health problem in America’. So, just like the question regarding the debate on when does mass-murder become ‘genocide’, I don’t think we need to wait for a specific ‘number’ or a given ‘percentage’ to qualify this problem as very serious. Half a million attempted suicides a year is just too much to bypass as a mere consequence of a living society.

March 27, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Hi Lauren:

You are not crazy at all to link diet and depression. A lot of highly respected public health professionals are also making that connection. Remember what they say: You are what you eat :)

March 27, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Industrialized countries might also have much higher stress rates. We must also account for various neuroses, not just depression. Our country is so heterogeneous, with people from so many backgrounds, the somewhat high suicide rates are hardly surprising. In some groups, suicide might be considered a more acceptable option than in the others. There's another reason, however, and that is, when people take the wealth of their country for granted, they have a lower level of satisfaction and a lowered ability to cope with difficulties. In other words, many "desperado" suicides are probably just spoiled and misguided.

March 27, 2005

Blogger Kitsune said...

Two other points of interest: 1. Suicide numbers have been rising, but at what perentage of the population? While I do imagine that the rate of increase in suicides is not 1:1 with the population increase, I do think that it is a better comparison to raw numbers.

Thought two. I think that the whole culture surrounding suicide has changed as well. The modern media glorifies such things with coverage. A person who feels insignifagant in life may see some hope in death. When the media did not present such things, or at least not with the same fervor and analysis as it does today, perhaps that motivating factor would not be as strong.

Religion may also be a factor. A person who believes strongly that eternal damnation will be metted out for suicide would obviously be less likely to commit the act. Certainly religion, in the traditional sence, is not as prevassive in our society as it once was, even a few decades ago.

PS: please excuse any typos or spelling errors. I'm up late and am a poor speller to start with!

April 02, 2005


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