Anatomy of Suicide

September 25, 1963

Report Outline
Suicide as Problem of Public Health
Historical Roots of Suicide Question
Efforts to Reduce the Suicide Toll

Suicide as Problem of Public Health

Gravity of Suicide Problem in United States

At least 20,000 Americans will take their own lives in the next 12 months, and 100,000 to 200,000 others will make serious but unsuccessful attempts to do so. Louis I. Dublin, medical statistician, has estimated that possibly as many as two million individuals now living in the United States have tried at some time to commit suicide. Despite this shocking state of affairs, there is widespread apathy about the problem, both on the part of the public and within the medical profession. Because the facts about suicide—its prevalence and the possibilities of cutting down its toll—are not well known, experts on the subject are trying to spread this message: The great majority of suicides and suicide attempts are the product of emotional states which are only temporary and which are remediable.

Suicide rates have fluctuated widely in this country in the past 60 years. The rate rose from 11.3 per 100,000 population in 1900 to 18.6 per 100,000 in 1908, the year following a severe Wall Street panic. Remaining above 15 per 100,000 through the year 1916, the rate then gradually declined to around 13 and stayed there through 1927. A new rise carried it to 18.6 in 1932, at the bottom of the Great Depression, when 21,649 persons were listed as suicides. The rate stood at 15 per 100,000 in 1938 and dropped to a low of 9.6 in the war year of 1944. Since then it has not surpassed the figure of 11.2 per 100,000 recorded in 1950 and again in 1962.

Even at last year's relatively low rate, suicide ranked as the 11th leading cause of death in the United States; the victims numbered 20,890. Among persons aged 20 to 35, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death, being outranked only by accidents, heart disease and cancer. For every two persons killed in automobile accidents, one commits suicide. For every homicide in this country, there are two suicides.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mental Health
Mar. 13, 2015  Prisoners and Mental Illness
Dec. 05, 2014  Treating Schizophrenia
Sep. 12, 2014  Teen Suicide
May 10, 2013  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 03, 2012  Treating ADHD
Jun. 01, 2012  Traumatic Brain Injury
Jun. 26, 2009  Treating Depression
Feb. 13, 2004  Youth Suicide
Feb. 06, 2004  Mental Illness Medication Debate
Mar. 29, 2002  Mental Health Insurance
Feb. 08, 2002  Treating Anxiety
Jul. 16, 1999  Childhood Depression
Jun. 18, 1999  Boys' Emotional Needs
Sep. 12, 1997  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 19, 1994  Prozac
Aug. 06, 1993  Mental Illness
Oct. 09, 1992  Depression
Jun. 14, 1991  Teenage Suicide
Jul. 08, 1988  Biology Invades Psychology
Feb. 13, 1987  The Mentally Ill
Aug. 20, 1982  Mental Health Care Reappraisal
Jun. 12, 1981  Youth Suicide
Sep. 21, 1979  Mental Health Care
Sep. 15, 1978  Brain Research
Jul. 05, 1974  Psychomedicine
Aug. 08, 1973  Emotionally Disturbed Children
Dec. 27, 1972  Mental Depression
Mar. 24, 1972  Schizophrenia: Medical Enigma
Apr. 21, 1971  Approaches to Death
Mar. 03, 1971  Encounter Groups
Nov. 25, 1970  Psychological Counseling of Students
Feb. 19, 1969  Future of Psychiatry
Feb. 02, 1966  New Approaches to Mental Illness
Jan. 22, 1964  Insanity as a Defense
Sep. 25, 1963  Anatomy of Suicide
Nov. 20, 1957  Drugs and Mental Health
Apr. 23, 1954  Mental Health Programs
Jul. 09, 1948  Mental Health
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Mental Health