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Suicidal Thoughts or Threats - Topic Overview

Suicide occurs almost twice as often as murder. Each year, about 36,000 people in the United States die by suicide. In the U.S.:1

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death.
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 and the second leading cause for people ages 25 to 34.
  • Suicide rates have increased for middle-aged and older adults. One suicide death occurs for every 4 suicide attempts.
  • Women try suicide more often, but men are 4 times more likely to die from a suicide attempt.
  • A gun is the most common method of suicide.

Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to commit suicide. Your risk of committing suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.

Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.

Most people who seriously consider or attempt suicide have one or more of the following risks:

The warning signs of suicide change with age.

Anytime someone talks about suicide or about wanting to die or disappear, even in a joking manner, the conversation must be taken seriously. A suicide attempt—even if the attempt did not harm the person—also must be taken seriously. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you think may be considering suicide. There is no proof that talking about suicide leads to suicidal thinking or suicide. Once you know the person's thoughts on the subject, you may be able to help prevent a suicide.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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