Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz
Assistant Secretary, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
“We must do all we can to educate individuals and families about warning signs of suicide.”
Suicide is a major public health issue in our nation. In 2017, suicide took the lives of 47,173 Americans, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Men accounted for 78 percent of these tragic deaths.
Why are the majority of suicides in men? Men are likely to use more lethal means, such as firearms, when making suicide attempts — and, therefore, more likely to die. Also, men are less likely to seek help when feeling depressed and hopeless.
For example, only 28 percent of men, compared with more than 50 percent of women, were receiving mental health treatment at the times of their deaths.
Unchecked, it’s deadly
Far too few people seek or receive the help they need. Data from the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health tell us that more than one-third of individuals who made a suicide attempt either did not receive mental health treatment or did not perceive a need to do so. There are many reasons individuals cite for not seeking help. These include denial of the severity of a mental health problem and the belief that the problem can be handled without treatment. Even those who have taken steps to engage with a suicide hotline often do not think they need treatment. More than half of suicidal National Lifeline callers reported these as reasons they did not access a mental health resource after receiving a referral for one.
As the leading agency for mental and substance use disorders in the United States, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) prioritizes addressing suicide. More than $70 million in funding goes to support community, college campus and state efforts to implement suicide prevention strategies. Most recently, SAMHSA has invested in a program which focuses on adult suicide.
Education needed first
We must do all we can to educate individuals and families about warning signs of suicide. We must also educate our healthcare practitioners so that citizens across our nation will receive the care and support they need when that bold and critical step to seek help is made. That is why SAMHSA has prioritized training of healthcare professionals, families and communities through efforts such as the Mental Health Technology Transfer Centers, Clinical Support System for Serious Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Help is available. The federal government is paying close attention to this major public health issue and stands ready to partner with communities and states across the country to get our citizens the evidence-based, high-quality care they need.
If you or someone you care about is thinking about suicide, please reach out to a health care professional, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or find help at findtreatment.samhsa.gov.
Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, [email protected]