Suicide Rates Are Rising — Here’s How the Government Is Intervening

As suicide rates continue to rise across the country, the United States Health Department has released its national prevention strategy in an effort to curb this growing public health concern.

One person dies by suicide every 11 minutes in the U.S. — a staggering statistic that is only growing. In 2022, that amounted to more than 49,000 suicide deaths across the country, and suicide rates increased by 12.7% from 2012 to 2022.

This urgent and increasing public health crisis is the target of the 2024 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, newly released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 185-page document is a 10-year, “whole-of-society” approach to suicide prevention that provides concrete recommendations to address gaps in the field of suicide prevention.

“The National Strategy seeks to prevent suicide risk in the first place; identify and support people with increased risk through treatment and crisis intervention; prevent reattempts; promote long-term recovery; and support survivors of suicide loss,” the government says of its report.

The strategy is guided by four “strategic directions,” or areas of focus: community-based suicide prevention; treatment and crisis services; surveillance, quality improvement, and research; and health equity in suicide prevention.

Divided among these four areas of focus are 15 specific goals, examples of which include “Implement effective suicide prevention services as a core component of health care” and “Embed health equity into all comprehensive suicide prevention activities.”

The report is made up of detailed, up-to-date research on suicide risk and patterns, examples of successful mitigation methods, and concrete suggestions for all those who may have a hand in preventing suicide risk and supporting survivors.

Disparities in risk levels

The report also makes clear that disparities in suicide rates and attempts persist, and those disproportionately impacted include veterans, racial and ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ populations, youth, middle-aged and older adults, individuals with serious mental illness, certain occupational groups, and others.

As a result, health equity is a major focus of the prevention strategy, with an emphasis on populations disproportionately affected by suicide and suicide attempts. The plan also highlights the benefits of including people with suicide-centered lived experience in suicide prevention planning, implementation, research, and evaluation.

Alongside the national strategy, the government also released the Federal Action Plan, which identifies more than 200 actions to be taken by the federal government over the next three years in support of those goals.

These include evaluating promising community-based suicide prevention strategies, identifying ways to address substance use/overdose and suicide risk together in the clinical setting, funding a mobile crisis locator for use by 988 crisis centers, and increasing support for survivors of suicide loss and others whose lives have been impacted by suicide.

In 2022 alone, nearly 50,000 people died by suicide in the U.S., 13.2 million reported seriously considering suicide, 1.6 million reported a suicide attempt, and millions more supported someone close to them who was in distress.

“At the heart of this strategy lies a call for a more coordinated and comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention,” reads the report. “This approach prioritizes collaboration between the public and private sectors as well as with people with lived experience and groups that have been disproportionately affected by suicide.”

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