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The Second Leading Cause
Of Death Among Teenagers

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2021

Every 11 minutes. During a typical day in America, that’s how often a death by suicide will occur.

Since the turn of the century, suicide is the nation’s 10th leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)—with 763,536 lives lost from New Year’s Day 2000 through New Year’s Eve 2019. That is across all ages.

Over the same 20-year span, suicide ranked second—behind only “Unintentional Injury”—on the CDC’s list of causes of death among teenagers (13-19): 40,884 deaths. Another 1,852 children under 13 years old died by suicide.

The rate of suicides in children and young adults accelerated sharply in 2010-19, compared to 2000-09.

Deaths By Suicide:

Age Range2000-092010-19Increase
Under 13
7041,14863.07%
13-19
17,69723,18731.02%
10-2128,40536,93630.03%
15-24
41,489
53,893
29.90%

* Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Is The Suicide Rate Among Young People Even Higher?

ReDiscover started the Show-Me Zero Suicide prevention program in 2016 because the suicide rate in the Kansas City area among teenagers was “skyrocketing,” states Kirsti Millar, the program’s director. She is concerned the suicide rate among America’s young people might be even higher than what official statistics reflect.

“Accidents are the leading cause of death among adolescents,” Millar points out. “There’s a lot of concern across the country that some medical examiners might classify some deaths as accidents rather than suicides due to insurance or to just spare the families the added heartbreak. 

“I really worry the suicide rate among kids is much, much higher than we think.”

More Willingness To Classify Deaths As Suicides

A study about adolescent suicide rates published in the June 2019 Journal of the American Medical Association noted that the “cause of death in death certificates could occasionally be inaccurate.” The study’s authors cited suicides using opioids that were mistaken for accidental overdoses, but they also theorized the increased suicide rate during the past decade might “reflect more accurate reporting, possibly due to coroners and families being more willing to label deaths as suicides.”

Males Account For More Suicide Fatalities
(Females More Attempts)

  • Worldwide, for every suicide attempt by a male, there are three attempts by females. Men, however, tend to use far more lethal means, resulting in a significantly higher percentage of suicide fatalities among males.

    » Why More Men Kill Themselves Than Women

  • Firearms account for slightly more than half (50.4%) of all suicide deaths in America. Storing guns in a safe or lock box can significantly reduce suicide risk, the CDC notes, by preventing easy access to a lethal means of harming one's self.

    » CDC's Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs and Practices (PDF)

    Lethal Means
  • While males accounted for 77.9% of all suicide fatalities in the United States in last decade (2010-19), the percentage of female deaths by suicide during that period rose more than 59 percent in the 15- to 24-year age group, when compared to 2000-09.

Missouri Suicide Rate Higher Than National Rate

  • Missouri had a suicide mortality rate of 18.2 per 100,000 people in 2019—higher than the national rate of 16.1. Wyoming and Alaska have the highest suicide rates in United States at 29.3 and 28.5, respectively. The lowest rates in the country are among three states in the Northeast—the only three states in the entire country with  rates under 10.0: New Jersey (8.0), New York (8.3) and Massachusetts (8.7).

More Than 1 Million Suicide Attempts In One Year

  • There were 47,478 suicide deaths in America in 2019, the last year for which the CDC has complete data. Nearly another 1.4 million suicide attempts were reported in 2019—and that was just among adults 18 or older.

    That equates to more than 3,700 suicide attempts per day.