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Saint Sophie's Psychiatric Center

Fargo, North Dakota

Suicide now tops car crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths in the U.S.

Statistics gathered from 2000 to 2009 from National Center for Health Statistics research show a 25% decrease in car accident deaths which elevates Suicide to the leading cause of injury deaths during that time period. In 2009 more than 37,000 Americans committed suicide and while that number is staggering, many experts believe that number could actually be as much as 20% higher due to underreporting.

Risk Factors for Suicide

A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are those characteristics associated with suicide—they may or may not be direct causes.

  • Family history of suicide
  • Family history of child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
  • Local epidemics of suicide
  • Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
  • Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
  • Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
  • Physical illness
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
  • Protective Factors for Suicide

Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. Identifying and understanding protective factors are, however, equally as important as researching risk factors.

Protective Factors

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
  • Family and community support (connectedness)
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation
  • (U.S. Public Health Service 1999)

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