Robin Williams and too many others have lost their lives to suicide. Williams' tragic death made highly public the great need for increased awareness of the grave risk that suicide poses.
A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that suicide rates in the United States reached a 30-year high between 1999 to 2014. According to ADAA President Karen Cassiday, PhD, "this report highlights the great concern that ADAA has for preventing suicides and for improving access to mental health care. It shows that we need to work harder to better prevent suicide as well as make excellent mental health accessible to everyone."
The ADAA survey conducted in 2015 with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention indicates that although the large majority of Americans are interested in seeking mental health care, they also face great challenges in both finding and affording treatment. Here are other key findings:
- The vast majority of American adults think suicide is at least sometimes preventable (94 percent).
- More than half of all American adults have been affected by suicide in some way (55 percent).
- Most adults (93 percent) would do something if someone close to them was thinking about suicide.
- While most people (67 percent) said that if they were having thoughts of suicide they would tell someone, men are significantly more likely than women to say they would not tell anyone if they were contemplating suicide.
- More than half (53 percent) did not know that people with anxiety or panic disorders are at risk for suicide, though they were aware that those diagnosed with depression and PTSD are at increased risk.
- Of those who have received treatment for mental health conditions, most thought it was very or somewhat helpful, whether the treatment was in-person psychotherapy (82 percent), prescription medication (75 percent), or another form of treatment.
"Both depression and anxiety carry a high risk of suicide," says Mark Pollack, MD, ADAA Past President and Grainger Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. "More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable illness such as clinical depression, and often in combination with anxiety or substance use disorders and other treatable mental disorders."
Suicide affects all age groups, including children. More people die from suicide than from automobile accidents. It was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States in 2013, according to the most recent available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control; that year saw more than 41,000 deaths.
Most suicides are preventable, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "Sadly," says Dr. Cassiday, "many who are at risk for attempting suicide never receive the treatment they need because of stigma, lack of access to care, or lack of knowledge about their symptoms."
Almost everyone who attempts or completes suicide has symptoms that mental health treatment could alleviate. As Dr. Cassiday points out, "We all recognize the need to wear seat belts, but how many of us recognize and endorse the need for mental health treatment as part of our national and personal practice of good health?"
The mission of ADAA is to ensure that everyone receives an accurate diagnosis and access to proper treatment so that they live their lives with mental wellness and dignity.
Treatment Is Available
Early diagnosis and intervention with appropriate treatment are critical steps to feeling better. Echoing ADAA's mission, Terence M. Keane, PhD, of the National Center for PTSD and the VA Boston Healthcare System, emphasizes this: "If you're feeling depressed and alone, effective treatments are available. Consult a mental health professional today."
- Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for more information.
- Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
- Families for Depression Awareness
- The Carson J. Spencer Foundation
- Working Minds
Learn about treatment (plus how to choose your therapist)
Symptoms of depression (includes a link to a site in Spanish)
Updated May 2016