SUICIDE & Suicide Prevention
Suicide is the leading cause of violent death in the US, and one of the top 10 causes of death overall for Americans. Over the last decade, 399,157 Americans died by suicide, of which 201,875—approximately 50%—died by firearm suicide. Injury Prevention journal
Nationwide suicide rates are on the rise in almost every state. In Harford County, suicide accounts for over twice as many deaths as homicide and the number of those taking their own life doubled between 2017 and 2018, primarily through firearms and unintentional overdoses.
Healthy People 2020 sets reducing suicide rates to 10.2 suicides per 100,000 by 2020. In 2018, Harford County’s suicide rate was 15.7 per 100,000.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
Significant risk factors for suicide include mental health disorders, addiction issues, stress, bullying, loss, serious health conditions, abuse/neglect, childhood trauma, family history, and access to lethal means like firearms or drugs. According to the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, data from 27 states in 2015 revealed the following causes:
- Relationship problem (42%)
- Problematic substance use (28%)
- Crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29%)
- Criminal legal problem (9%)
- Physical health problem (22%)
- Loss of housing (4%)
- Job/Financial problem (16%)
Populations with disproportionately high suicide rates include:
- Whites and American Indian/Alaska Natives:
- Older adults: By age and gender, the highest suicide rate is among males ages 65 and older, then ages 45 to 54. Among females, those ages 45-54 had the highest rate, followed by those ages 55-64.
- Veterans: Suicide rates among veterans were 1.5 times greater than non-veterans, after adjusting for age and gender in 2016.
- Those living in rural areas
- LGBTQ adults and youth
America’s Health Rankings, United Health Foundation 2019
Strategies to reduce suicide include:
- Quick access to care – The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center Hotline 1.800.NEXT.STEP can answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also send a mobile crisis team for those in crisis. The Center is also open 24/7 for urgent care/walk-in services at 802 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air.
- Universal screening at emergency rooms and doctor’s offices to identify patients at higher risk of suicide.
- Education – Harford County has a number of free classes to help people better understand mental illness, the signs of those in need, and how to interact with those that you feel may be at risk of suicide. The free 8 hour Mental Health First Aid class, and the 1 hour Question, Persuade, Refer QPR classes are offered periodically a various locations through out the county. Please check the Healthy Harford calendar of events for up coming classes.
- Reducing access to lethal means including access to firearms, lethal doses of medications and alcohol to reduce fatal suicide attempts. Evidence from studies over the past two decades shows a strong association between the presence of a firearm in the home and an increased risk of suicide for the gun owner and the gun owner’s spouse and children. One such program is the Gun Shop Project which builds partnerships between firearms business and public health experts to provide firearm suicide prevention educational materials to firearms retailers, instructors and customers. Maryland participates in this program and has a brochure that gun sellers can distribute to their clients.