This month in the Patheos Book Club, we’re featuring a new resource for religious leaders on suicide preparedness called Preventing Suicide: A Guidebook for Pastors, Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors. Author Karen Mason is an associate professor of counseling and psychology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a psychologist working in the mental health field since 1990.
Suicide is a national health problem. For every highly publicized story, thousands take their own lives in what can only be described as a tragedy. While the numbers below paint a grim picture, awareness of the problem is an important first step toward prevention.
- Throughout the developed world, self-harm is now the leading cause of death for people age fifteen to forty-nine, surpassing all cancers and heart disease.
- Every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before.
- In 2010, over thirty-eight thousand Americans took their lives.
- According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2008 to 2012, 8.6 million adults aged eighteen or older had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year.
- The majority of completed suicides in America involve firearms, and access to firearms is associated with a significantly increased risk of suicide.
- Over 90 percent of people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with mental illness.
- Access to mental health professionals is worse than for other types of doctors: 89.3 million Americans live in federally designated mental health professional shortage areas, compared to 55.3 million Americans living in similarly designated primary care shortage areas and 44.6 million in dental health shortage areas.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a network of 163 crisis centers in forty-nine states. In the United States, call 1-800-273-8255.
For more conversation, and to read an excerpt from Preventing Suicide, check out the Patheos Book Club.
Statistics compiled from the following sources:
Tony Dokoupil, “The Suicide Epidemic,” Newsweek, May 23, 2013
Sarah Kliff, “Seven Facts about America’s mental health-care system,” Washington Post, December 17, 2012
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org
National Alliance on Mental Illness, nami.org
National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nsduhweb.rti.org