The Change in Suicide Rates in the Past Decade

Before diving into the trends of suicide rates throughout the past decade, we first need to focus on one number in particular: 539,810. That is how many lives, friends, family members, we’ve lost to suicide in the past decade. Before looking into specific trends, we need to comprehend the devastation of a number of such magnitude.


When you go to an average professional sports arena for a sporting event or a concert, and you look around at a full arena and see just how vast the crowd is… when the voices put together are enough to make the stadium shake. Fill that arena 27 times over. Take a quick second to think of that many faces, that many individuals. It is nearly an incomprehensible amount of people. That is how many souls we have lost in just the past decade to suicide, something that we can prevent with the right tools, education, and a greater emphasis on the importance of mental health.


To think we have the suicide epidemic under control is far-fetched. In fact, last year saw the highest number of suicide deaths on record, which was 49,369 (CDC, 2023). Not only is that the highest number on record, but over the span of the past decade the adjusted suicide rate increased by a staggering 16% and is back on the rise. Suicide rates even slowed in 2019 and 2020, but quickly began to rise again in 2021 and 2022. This is likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many other mental health issues, financial stressors, and other factors that arose during that time. To say 2022 had the highest amount of suicide deaths on record is not enough, because it outnumbered the next highest year (2018) by over 1,000 deaths, showing us that it is more important than EVER to implement suicide prevention throughout the country.




-The CDC’s data shows 2022 as a record high for suicide deaths, even after a short decline in suicide rates in 2019 and 2020


-In 2021 suicide rates were highest among American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, males, and those who live in rural geographic areas


-Suicide rates seem to be increasing fastest among those of color, younger individuals, and those who live in rural geographic areas (most groups rising by 30% or more in the past decade)


-Increases in firearm suicides are driving the overall increase in suicide deaths in recent years



Suicide rates also varied greatly depending on the state. As stated, many of the more rural states are the ones dealing with increases and high numbers of suicide deaths. For example, in 2021 Washington D.C. has a low rate of 6.21 per 100,000 in the population, while Montana has a substantially higher rate of 32.0 per 100,000 in the population. The rates continue to skyrocket over the past decade in rural areas. Examples include:


(CDC Data)


-Alaska (54% increase, from 20.0 to 30.8 per 100,000)


-South Dakota (48% increase, from 15.7 to 23.4 per 100,000)


-Nebraska (43% increase, from 10.5 to 15.0 per 100,000)


-Montana (42% increase, from 22.5 to 32.0 per 100,000)


The exact reasons for the extreme increase in suicide deaths throughout the past decade is not entirely known. It may be due to lack of mental health resources and unmet mental health needs, as well as increasing financial and social stressors. One thing is known for sure: we need to address this issue and we need to address it NOW. The implementation of the 9-8-8 National Suicide Crisis Line was a major step forward, though much more data will need to be seen to determine its success.


There is more we can do. We must look toward education, ending the stigma of mental illness, fundraising for suicide prevention efforts, and so much more. We need to be available for those in need and those who are enduring a crisis.


The Bucks County Suicide Prevention Task Force continues this mission. Please consider donating or volunteering in the future to help advance our goal of preventing suicide in Bucks County.

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