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World Suicide Prevention Day 2023: Let's Turn This Around
It can get better
World Suicide Prevention Day 2023 is today, September 10.
Recently, there was the creation of a new emergency number for suicide help: 988
Here is the website: 988 Lifeline
I’m all about fighting death, in all its forms.
Yes, memento mori, and all that jazz, but there’s no hurry.
Alas, my expertise is mainly in tracking mortality trends. So I will mainly point out what we’re seeing — in the U.S. and worldwide.
U.S. trends: 1968-2022
Here is the most recent high-level trend:
The crude rate (total number of deaths via suicide per total population) and the age-adjusted rate (a rate to normalize for the age distribution of deaths and population) have similar trends.
There had been a local maximum in the mid-1970s, then sideways movement through the 1980s, then decline through the 1990s, coming to a minimum in the year 2000.
Yes, the crude rate and the age-adjusted rate were the same in 2000 — because the reference age distribution were based on the year 2000.
But since 2000, the rate has been increasing. Pre-pandemic, there was this bobble - a peak, then a decrease over a couple years, but in 2021 and 2022 there were increases again. The cumulative increase from 2000 to 2022 was about 40%.
2023 series on U.S. suicide trends
I did some more detailed looks at suicide trends - by sex, race/ethnicity, and geography this year.
August 30, 2023: Suicide Trends: U.S. Trends by State by Sex 1999-2022
August 14, 2023: Suicide Trends: U.S. Trends by Sex and Race/Ethnicity through 2022
August 17, 2023: Suicide Trends: U.S. Trends by for Men by Age Through 2022
August 18, 2023: Suicide Trends: U.S. Trends by for Women by Age Through 2022
The trends have been bad at all levels, essentially.
Yes, the rates for males are much higher than for females in the U.S.:
And there are some harrowing differences and increases for Native Americans compared to other racial/ethnic groups — but, frankly, all the groups are showing increases.
If you dig into the rates and changes, you’ll see that often what is driving the major differences are increased suicide rates of older men.
Worldwide suicide trends
Let’s step back and look at the worldwide trend.
So, unfortunately, this is going to be subtle using the map chart.
First, let me give the table for the highest suicide rates in 2019:
First — what the hell, Lesotho? I have no idea what is going on there. Evidently, it’s one of the only places in the world where the female suicide rate is higher than that of males. I seriously do not know what is going on there.
Eswatini - I hadn’t even heard of the place before. (Okay, it used to be called Swaziland, and I had heard of that.) But what is with the big spike of suicides in 2010?
But stepping back — these are primarily African nations, plus a couple in Oceania and one in South America.
Next, the top countries for the increase in suicide rates, which will look different… kind of.
Lesotho still tops the ranks because… holy crap, Lesotho.
Of crazy patterns, South Korea is also up there. I knew South Korea had a relatively high national rate.
Japan’s rate had been higher than the U.S., but it had been decreasing — indeed, most of the developed world has been seeing decreasing suicide rates, which is good to see.
But for many of these in this particular table, we’re seeing very low rates rising.
That’s not good, of course, but it’s not the same thing as Lesotho’s already insanely high rate doubling.
Multiple causes, multiple interventions — let’s be kind out there
It’s difficult to tell what’s going on in many of these cases.
When I dug into the multiple aspects of U.S. suicide trends, yes, it’s primarily what’s going on with males and particularly old men that is driving the high-level trend for our country.
It’s difficult enough to know what’s going on in a continent-spanning country (that is, the U.S.) to figure out what the hell is going on in Lesotho.
In that post, I mentioned that drug overdose deaths for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives had increased a huge amount during the pandemic. Well, that’s also true of deaths through suicide.
And that’s not the only kind of tragic deaths for that community. It’s hideous.
So that’s another one of my causes, though I can’t do much directly for this.
The best I can do, other than say rosaries, is to let people know that this is going on. Perhaps somebody with a better ability to do something directly can take action.
Sometimes it merely takes someone pointing the way to someone who is able to do something that can get things done.
Older posts on suicide
Nov 2022: Movember 2022: The Sex Gap in Suicide
Nov 2021: Movember Fundraising: Men and Suicide
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