Aug. 11, 2023 – In 2022, 49,449 people in the U.S. died by suicide. That’s the most suicides in a single year in U.S. history and marks a 2.6% increase over the prior year, according to new figures released by the CDC this week.
The figures do show some signs of hope for the state of mental health among the nation’s youngest people. Suicides among people ages 10 to 24 years old were down 8.4% from 2021 to 2022. An estimated 6,529 people ages 10 to 24 died by suicide in 2022.
The data, which is based on death certificates that haven’t been fully reviewed, also showed that 6.1% fewer American Indian and Alaska Native people died by suicide last year. But when looking at suicides among people in any other demographic group, such as by race, age, or gender, the numbers were all up from 2021 levels.
"Nine in 10 Americans believe America is facing a mental health crisis. The new suicide death data reported by CDC illustrates why," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
The CDC didn’t publish an updated suicide rate for 2022, but Reuters calculated it to be 14.9 deaths for every 100,000 people, which would make the 2022 rate 5% higher than the previous record high of 14.2 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2018.
“These numbers are a sobering reminder of how urgent it is that we further expand access to mental health care, address the root causes of mental health struggles, and recognize the importance of checking on and supporting one another,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said in the statement. “If you or a loved one are in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, please know that your life matters and that you are not alone. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 for anyone who needs help.”
July marked the first anniversary of the launch of 988, the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Nearly 5 million calls, texts, and chats were answered by the service in its first year. The Lifeline has also launched a new website, bethe1to.com, designed to help people prevent suicides. The headline on the homepage states, “Be the one to help save a life. We all can take action to prevent suicide.”
In the news release, the CDC shared five steps for helping safeguard someone who is at risk of suicide or who is in crisis:
- Ask: Asking and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts or ideas (also called suicidal ideation).
- Help keep them safe: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to lethal means is an important part of suicide prevention.
- Be there: Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation has shown to help protect against suicide.
- Help them connect: People who called the 988 Lifeline were significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful by the end of calls.
- Follow up: After you’ve connected a person having thoughts of suicide with the immediate support systems that they need, following up with them to see how they’re doing can help increase their feelings of connectedness and support. There’s evidence that even a simple form of reaching out can potentially reduce that person’s risk for suicide.