What We Know About Suicide

  • Suicide is a public health issue that affects individuals and families of all ages, socio-economic groups, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Stigma, myths and social attitudes about suicide can make it difficult for people and families in pain to get the help they need, and leave others unsure of how to offer or receive support after an attempt or death.
  • Most people who die by suicide – up to 90% – have experienced a mental health condition, often untreated. People die daily from emotionally painful conditions that might have responded to treatment.
  • Youth who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning are at four times greater risk of 
attempting suicide than their heterosexual peers. They are four times more likely to be threatened by a weapon at school and, though they represent 10% of the population, they represent 25% of the homeless population.
  • It is critical to restrict access to lethal means by people at high risk of suicide.
  • National suicide research identifies that a population acknowledged to be at high-risk – white, non-Hispanic middle-aged men – is experiencing a significant increase in death by suicide.  In studies examining the ten-year period of 1999 through 2010, the rate of suicide increased by 28% for both men and women in the 35 – 64 age range (though men still die at a much higher rate than women). During the same time period the rate of death by suicide rose 7% for ages 10 through 34, and dropped by 5.9% for ages 65 and over. Suicide is now the fourth leading cause of death for middle-aged Americans, versus the eighth leading cause of death in 1999.
  • Military veterans also constitute a high-risk group due to exposure to violence, potential traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a traditional military culture that often discourages help-seeking.

In Vermont…

  • The number of suicide deaths is higher than from motor vehicle accidents, and much higher than homicides.
  • 21% of high school students reported feeling depressed for more than two weeks – the definition of clinical depression. Vermont is approximately 95% white, but a disproportionately large percentage (9%) of young people who were referred for mental health concerns identified as non-white.
  • In 2009, the last year for which the complete data are available, there were 400 visits to emergency 
departments for Vermonters who attempted suicide.
  • Suicide rates increase across the age ranges, and are highest among those 65 and older. The rates of suicide death for Vermonters over 65 steadily increased from 12.6 per 100,000 in 2008 to 25.5 per 100,000 in 2011. Vermont elders struggle with many challenges, from chronic pain to grief and depression, and may be at higher risk for physical isolation in rural settings. As we age, many people struggle with feeling disconnected from their life purpose, and are frequently concerned that they have become a burden to others. This 
perceived burdensome-ness, in combination with isolation and lack of connection, presents a significantly high-risk profile.
  • Between 2010 and 2013, Vermont veterans had a suicide rate of 28 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 19 deaths per 100,000 non-veterans.
  • The majority of Vermont suicide deaths (57%) are the result of firearms, higher than the national average of 50%.
  • A notable sex discrepancy exists when considering lethal means. The most recent Vermont research tells us that men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women overall, and 64% of male deaths were firearm related. Here we see reflected the effects of high lethality of means of choice. While 43% of female suicide deaths were also firearm related, a higher number were due to poisoning, at 48%.
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