In a tragic sign of the times, suicides in the U.S. hit an all-time high in 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released provisional figures on Thursday showing that self-inflicted deaths climbed about 2.6% to 49,449 last year.
The rate had declined in 2019 and 2020 before jumping roughly 5% in 2021 to 48,183 total deaths.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among U.S. residents below 35 years of age. There is now one death by suicide every 11 minutes in the country.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra released a statement lamenting the news. “One life lost to suicide is one to many. Yet, too many people still believe asking for help is a sign of weakness.”
Debra Houry, the CDC’s Chief Medical Officer, described the new total as “troubling.” She added that the news demanded quick reaction to address the “staggering” and “preventable” loss of life.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for greater access to mental health treatments as well as “checking on and supporting one another.”
— New York Post (@nypost) August 11, 2023
The only good news in the figures were drops in two demographics. Suicide rates for American Indian and Alaska Native people fell 6.1%, and the rate for ages 10-24 dropped 8.4%.
However, the results for older Americans were not nearly so positive.
For those from ages 45 to 64 the death rate rose almost 7%. For the population 65 and older, it increased over 8%. The incidence of suicide, the CDC reported, is dramatically higher among White males.
Some experts noted that the decline in suicides in 2019 and 2020 coincided with a pattern seen in wars and natural disasters. Rates tend to fall as people band together and support each other, and this is thought to have happened with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
But by 2021 and again last year, the U.S. suicide rate was again on the rise.
The provisional data cited by the CDC was compiled from death certificates and is believed to be nearly complete for 2022. Last year saw the creation of a nationwide crisis line — 988 — where anyone may reach mental health specialists.