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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
September/October 2009, Volume 17, Number 5 

National Study Examines Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

Nearly 8.3 million adults age 18 and older in the United States (3.7 percent) had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year, according to the first national scientific survey of its size on this public health problem.

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Adults, from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), also shows that 2.3 million adult Americans made a suicide plan in the past year and that 1.1 million adults—0.5 percent of all adult Americans—had actually attempted suicide in the past year.

Image of young man

Among the adults who had serious thoughts of suicide, most (5.8 million) had not made a suicide plan or suicide attempt. Approximately 1.4 million adults had serious thoughts of suicide and made a suicide plan, but had not made a suicide attempt; 0.2 million had serious thoughts of suicide and made a suicide attempt, but made no suicide plan.

An estimated 0.9 million had serious thoughts of suicide, made a suicide plan, and actually attempted suicide.

Problem Varies by Age

According to the report, the risk of suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts varies significantly among age groups. Young adults age 18 to 25 were far more likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year than those age 26 to 49 (6.7 versus 3.9 percent), and nearly three times more likely than those age 50 or older (2.3 percent). (See chart.)

These disparities in risk levels among younger and older adults also were found in suicide planning and suicide attempts.

Substance Use

Substance use disorders also were associated with a higher risk of seriously considering, planning, or attempting suicide.

People experiencing substance use disorders within the past year were more than three times as likely to have seriously considered suicide as those who had not experienced a substance use disorder (11.0 versus 3.0 percent).

Those with past-year substance use disorders were also four times more likely to have made a suicide plan than those without substance use disorders (3.4 versus 0.8 percent) and nearly seven times more likely to have attempted suicide (2.0 versus 0.3 percent).

Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in the Past Year among Adults, by Age Group: 2008

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Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in the Past Year among Adults, by Age Group: 2008—click to enlarge image

Source: SAMHSA Office of Applied Studies (September 17, 2009). Figure 1. The NSDUH Report: Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Adults. Rockville, MD.

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Medical Attention

Of the adults who attempted suicide in the past year, 62.3 percent (678,000 people) received medical attention for their suicide attempts, and 46.0 percent (500,000) stayed overnight or longer in a hospital for their suicide attempts.

This study is the first to present findings based on new NSDUH suicide questions introduced in 2008 and asked of all adult respondents age 18 or older.

View Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Adults in HTML or PDF format.

Previously in SAMHSA News

Suicide Prevention on Campus: Keeping Students Connected

Gatekeeper Training: Syracuse Shares Hands-on Experience

Dr. Phil Partners with Lifeline

Suicide Prevention: New Media Increase Options

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, With help comes hope. Help is available for you or someone you care about, 24/7. Call 1-800-273-TALK.


  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Recovery: A Philosophy of Hope and Resilience

Recovery: A Philosophy of Hope and Resilience




  Treatment Updates  
Treating Alcohol Disorders with Medication

Treating Alcohol Disorders with Medication

A set of guidelines for use of effective medications, such as naltrexone.

Guidance for Change

Guidance for Change

Substance abuse treatment programs: Here’s a way to integrate evidence-based practices into their services.

Treating Opioid Addiction

Treating Opioid Addiction

Three new educational brochures for patients on medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction are available.


  Suicide Awareness  
Dealing with Suicide Loss

Dealing with Suicide Loss

To help support survivors of suicide loss, a new guide for funeral directors.

National Study on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

National Study on Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors

Nearly 8.3 million adults had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.


  Grants  
Recent Awards

Recent Awards

Millions of dollars in SAMHSA funding is heading to state and community programs.

Tips on Writing a Winning Proposal

Tips on Writing a Winning Proposal

Boost your chances of crafting a winning grant proposal by following an expert’s advice.


  Communications  
Highlights of Recent Conference

Highlights of Recent Conference

New ways to engage partners and the public in improving health through an ongoing dialogue.

Strategic Communications Framework

Public health practice aligns with evidence-based communications to help establish “a common language.”


  Recovery Month  
Recovery Month Launched

Recovery Month Launched

20th anniversary events across the country marked this year’s celebrations, which included a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Photo Gallery

SAMHSA’s Dr. Westley Clark, Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, joined other VIPs to celebrate.


  New Survey Data  
National Survey Shows Overall Drug Use Steady at 8 Percent

National Survey Shows Overall Drug Use Steady at 8 Percent

Among 12- to 17-year-olds, a significant decline was reported in past-month illicit drug use.


  Prevention Update  
FASD Awareness Day

FASD Awareness Day

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day emphasized the message, “If you’re pregnant, don’t drink alcohol.”


  Special Populations  

Hispanics

An annual average of 2.6 million Hispanics age 12 or older needed alcohol use treatment in the past year.

American Indians

A recent report examines the 335 identified facilities serving the American Indian and Alaska Native population in 2007.

Race and Ethnicity

New data focus on the need for treatment for substance use and depression among adults age 18 or older by race/ethnicity.


  Also in this Issue  
Statistics on Mental Health Groups

Statistics on Mental Health Groups

Of the 28.8 million adults who received mental health treatment in the past year, about 5.5 percent also received support from a self-help group.

Science and Service Awards

Science and Service Awards

Categories for this year’s awards to 27 organizations included substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery support services, and more.

GlassBook Project

GlassBook Project

Trauma awareness through art was the topic of a recent presentation as part of SAMHSA’s Consumer Affairs Seminar Series.



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