Suicide occurs when a person ends his or her life. It is the 10th leading cause of death among Americans. But suicide deaths are only part of the problem. Suicide attempts impact a larger population—more individuals survive suicide attempts than die. And they are often seriously injured and in need of medical care.
Suicide Deaths in the United States
Suicide Attempts in the United States
Age Group Differences
Racial and Ethnic Disparities
Suicide is a complex human behavior, with no single determining cause. The factors that affect the likelihood of a person attempting or dying by are known as risk or protective factors, depending on whether they raise or lower the likelihood of suicidal behavior.
Major risk factors for suicide include:
Major protective factors include:
To learn more, see SPRC’s Risk and Protective Factors Resource Sheet.
Some behaviors may indicate that a person is at immediate risk for suicide. The following three should prompt you to immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a mental health professional.
Other behaviors may also indicate a serious risk—especially if the behavior is new; has increased; and/or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change.
Death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with any intent to die as a result of the behavior.
Note: The term “committed” suicide is discouraged because it connotes the equivalent of a crime or sin. The CDC has also deemed “completed suicide” and “successful suicide” as unacceptable. Preferred terms are “death by suicide” or "died by suicide."
A non-fatal self-directed potentially injurious behavior with any intent to die as result of the behavior. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.
Thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can range in severity from a vague wish to be dead to active suicidal ideation with a specific plan and intent.
A fatal or nonfatal injury that was unplanned and not intended to happen. Causes include a motor vehicle crash, poisoning, fall, fire, and drowning. Unintentional injuries are sometimes referred to as “accidents,” but this term is discouraged since it implies the injury was not preventable.
Interventions designed to stop suicidal behavior before it occurs. These interventions involve reducing the factors that put people at risk for suicide and suicidal behaviors. They also include increasing the factors that protect people or buffer them from being at risk.
The care of suicidal people by licensed mental health caregivers, health care providers, and other caregivers with individually tailored strategies designed to change the self-injurious or self-directed violent thoughts, behaviors, mood, environment, or chemistry of individuals that increase the risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors, and help them identify and address their emotional, psychological, and physical needs without engaging in self-destructive behaviors.
Actions taken after a suicide has occurred largely to help persons affected by the suicide loss, such as family, friends, and co-workers of the deceased.