Suicide rates in nearly every U.S. state rose from 1999 to 2016, with increases of more than 30 percent in half of the states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report released Thursday.
The CDC “Vital Signs” report said that more than half of people who commit suicide do not have a diagnosed mental health condition.
Health professionals didn’t offer a reason for the increase but said suicides rarely result from a single factor. They said coroners’ reports from across the country indicate that suicides often follow relationship or financial problems, substance abuse and health crises.
“Suicide is a leading cause of death for Americans, and it’s a tragedy for families and communities across the country,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, said in a statement. “From individuals and communities to employers and health care professionals, everyone can play a role in efforts to help save lives and reverse this troubling rise in suicide.”
The CDC report was released a day after the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, whose husband said she had long struggled with depression and anxiety, though no mental health condition had been diagnosed before her death.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and one of three leading causes that are on the rise, the CDC said. The others are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses.
About 45,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. in 2016. The most common method, regardless of whether a mental health disorder had been diagnosed, was firearms.
Adults ages 45 to 64 had the largest increase in the suicide rate, from 13.2 suicides per 100,000 people in 1999 to 19.2 suicides per 100,000 in 2016.
The most extreme increase from 1999 to 2016 was in North Dakota, with a 57.6 percent rise.
Nevada, whose suicide rate decreased by 1 percent during the 17-year period, was the only state to report a decline. But Dr. Schuchat said the decrease was minor for a state with a high suicide rate.
The report used 2015 data from the National Violent Death Reporting System, which covered 27 states. It found that 54 percent of suicide victims did not have a known mental health condition.
Of those with no diagnosed mental health conditions, men are more likely to commit suicide and do so with firearms. Those with known mental health conditions were mostly men, but they were less likely to use firearms.
The report says entire communities should be involved in preventing suicide. For instance, states can provide temporary help to those at risk, health care systems can provide phone or online treatment where services are not accessible, and schools can teach students how to manage stress.
John Madigan, vice president of public policy for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the rising suicide rate is a complex phenomenon and that it is hard to pinpoint a reason despite all of the resources available.
However, he said, better records are being kept on suicide statistics.
“Warning signs are pretty simple,” Mr. Madigan said, such as a sudden rise in anxiety, mood swings, and alcohol and drug use.
When someone is at risk of committing suicide, he said, treat the situation as a “CPR intervention” and get help right away.