Young men between the ages of 10 and 24 are taking their own lives less often than they did 20 years ago, according to a report released by the CDC today. Unfortunately, the suicide rate among young women is slightly higher than it was in 1994. And young people in general are resorting to suicide by suffocation more often than they did two decades ago.
Suicide is disturbingly common among young people
Suicide is disturbingly common among young people. About 17 percent of high school students in the US say that they have seriously considered suicide, and 8 percent say that they've made an attempt. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in the US, after unintentional injury.
Despite the numbers, the suicide rate for young men has decreased to 12 deaths per 100,000 men, from 16 deaths per 100,000 men over the course of the last 20 years. For these men, the leading method of suicide was firearms. In contrast, women used suffocation most often — a suicide mechanism that includes suicide by hanging. In 1994, the suicide rate among young women was 2.7 deaths per 100,000 women. By 2012, that number hit 3.2 deaths per 100,000 women. Overall, firearm use has gone down, especially among 15- to 19-year-olds, and suicide by suffocation has increased.
The fact that suffocations are on the rise is concerning because that method is very efficient, the CDC authors write. On average suffocation kills between 69 and 84 percent of people who use it. Suicides by firearm, on the other hand, are about 81 percent successful, whereas poisonings are only successful in about 2 percent of cases, according to data from 2010.
The reasons for an increase in suicides by suffocation are unclear
The reasons for an increase in suicides by suffocation are unclear, the CDC researchers write. More research is needed to look into perceptions of suicide by hanging among teens and young adults. In the meantime, the CDC recommends that clinicians, hotline staff, and various other interventionists pay attention to "current trends in suffocation suicides." Doing so may help them educate families and assess risk when talking to young people who might be considering suicide.
Here are some suicide warning signs, and treatment options. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. Calling is free and the lifeline is staffed around the clock.