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Suicide now the 10th leading cause of death in U.S., CDC says

| Thursday, June 7, 2018, 3:21 p.m.
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More than a decade of steadily rising rates have made suicide the nation's 10th leading cause of death and one of only three causes of death — including Alzheimer's disease and drug overdoses — that are increasing in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a report that examines trends in suicide at the state level between 1999 and 2016, the CDC reports that suicide rates have increased in nearly all states. In half the states, the agency found the rate at which people took their own lives rose more than 30 percent.

In the report, released the same week fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead by suicide in New York, CDC officials underscored that more than half the people who died by suicide — 54 percent — did not have a known diagnosed mental health condition at the time of their death.

In a study that examined suicide trends in 27 states, the CDC found that in many cases, victims acted after experiencing relationship problems or loss; substance misuse; physical health problems; or job, money, legal or housing stress.

“Our data suggests suicide is more than a mental health issue,” said Deborah M. Stone, the lead author of the new study.

Noting that suicide is “very rare” among those with chronic depression, Stone added that while depression sufferers should “get the care they need,” friends, families and co-workers should not overlook the risk of self-harm among those who have never been diagnosed with mental illness.

On Thursday, public health officials urged people with suicidal thoughts to seek help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255. Americans also should learn the warning signs of suicide so they can recognize those at risk of harming themselves.

Among the agency's recommendations: Reduce access to lethal means of ending a life — such as medications and firearms — among people at risk.

“From individuals and communities to employers and health care professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC's principal deputy director.

In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans 10 or older died by suicide. The increases were particularly stark in the states in the intermountain West, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Minnesota and Oklahoma. Between 1999 and 2016, suicide rates in these states (as well as in Vermont, New Hampshire and South Carolina) rose between 38 percent and 58 percent.

Roughly half of the suicides in 2016 were carried out with a gun, a number that remained steady across the period studied.

In a closer look at suicides in 2015, CDC researchers found that 29.4 percent took place within two weeks of a crisis — most commonly a breakup or other problem related to an intimate-partner relationship (considered a contributing factor in more than one-third of suicides within two weeks of a crisis). Among the less-common factors presumed to have contributed to the suicides studied were physical health problems, legal difficulties, a family relationship issue or a job-related problem.

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