World Suicide Prevention Day: September 10

Sep 8, 2011, 8:18 PM, Posted by

In the U.S., the most recent data show that over 34,000 lives are lost to suicide each year, and over 350,000 people are seen in emergency rooms every year for self-inflicted injuries. To bring attention to this health issue, World Suicide Prevention Day, sponsored by the World Health Organization, is observed each year on September 10.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the American Journal of Public Health finds that suicide rates rise and fall with the economy. The study found the strongest association between business cycles and suicide among people in their prime working years—ages 25 to 64.

“Knowing suicides increased during economic recessions and fell during expansions underscores the need for additional suicide prevention measures when the economy weakens," said James Mercy, Ph.D., acting director of CDC's Division of Violence Prevention. "It is an important finding for policy makers and those working to prevent suicide."

Other study findings:

  • The overall suicide rate generally rose in recessions like the Great Depression (1929-1933), the end of the New Deal (1937-1938), the Oil Crisis (1973-1975), and the Double-Dip Recession (1980-1982) and fell in expansions like the WWII period (1939-1945) and the longest expansion period (1991-2001) in which the economy experienced fast growth and low unemployment
  • The largest increase in the overall suicide rate occurred in the Great Depression (1929-1933)—it surged from 18.0 in 1928 to 22.1 (all-time high) in 1932 (the last full year in the Great Depression)—a record increase of 22.8% in any four-year period in history. It fell to the lowest point in 2000

"Economic problems can impact how people feel about themselves and their futures,” says Feijun Luo, Ph.D., an economist in CDC's Division of Violence Prevention and the study's lead author. "We know suicide is not caused by any one factor – it is often a combination of many that lead to suicide. Prevention strategies can focus on individuals, families, neighborhoods or entire communities to reduce risk factors.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has a list of evidence-based best practices for suicide prevention.

And last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced $53 million in grants to be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grants will be awarded to states and tribes for youth suicide prevention programs.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.