For obvious reasons, you cannot discuss mental health without discussing the tragedy that is suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we lose nearly 45,000 Americans a year to suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in this country.
My experience when it comes to suicide and age is this: Most folks, generally speaking, think that suicide is something that primarily strikes younger kids, particularly those in high school. I think there’s a few reasons for this. First is suicides portrayal in popular media, such as the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. This is just a personal hypothesis, but I think that those who are younger have broader communication skills – as a result, when a young person attempts or completes suicide, you are more likely to hear about it.
Interestingly, this assumption is not born out by the data. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, here is a breakdown of suicide completions by age:
As you can see, the most likely group to complete suicide is not teens or young adults; it’s actually those aged 45-54, followed by individuals who are 85 or older.
What is very frightening, however, are the overall trend lines. For far too many of these age groups, suicide completions are on the rise, and have been for some time. But no where is this trend more pronounced than among those who are between 15-24, which have seen a nearly 20% spike since 2012, a rate of increase far outpacing those in other demographic groups.
There are many potential reasons for this, including rising rates of depression and anxiety among teens in general, the use of smartphones ad cyberbullying that comes with social media.
Regardless of the reason, the trend line is obviously incredibly disturbing, but it remains vitally important that we deal with suicide for the public health crisis it is among all age groups.