The number of Americans who attempted suicide and wound up in the emergency room has remained steady in the past decade, a new report finds.
Females were more likely to attempt suicide, but males used more violent methods. And all attempts were most common in the late spring, the researchers found.
“What stood out to us the most is that while the rate of fatal suicide has increased, the overall rate of nonfatal suicide attempts has not changed much over the years, nor have the patterns — age, sex, seasonality, mechanism, etc. — changed much,” said study co-author Joseph Canner. He is interim co-director of the Johns Hopkins Surgery Center for Outcomes Research in Baltimore.
“An optimist would say this is good news, given that there was a major recession early in the study period and given all of the attention highlighting the despair of middle-aged men with no job prospects, leading to drug use and suicide,” he said in a Hopkins news release.
“A pessimist would say that this report is bad news because the rate is unchanged despite all of the preventive interventions and emphasis on mental health over the past decade. Perhaps the truth is that these two forces are counterbalancing each other,” Canner said.
Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The authors of the new study focused on visits to the emergency department that were prompted by suicide attempts; in all the cases included in the study, the people survived. In a large database, the investigators found more than 3.5 million of these visits from 2006 through 2013 among people aged 10 and up.
Males were more likely to turn to firearms, hanging and jumping, while females were more likely to attempt poisoning/overdoses (two-thirds of all attempts) and drowning, the findings showed.
While females accounted for 57 percent of suicide-related visits and males accounted for 43 percent, the researchers said suicide attempts by males are more likely to result in death. So, that may have skewed the results because the study only looked at nonfatal cases of attempted suicide.
Suicide attempts overall result in a 14 percent fatality rate for males and a 3 percent fatality rate for females. This is probably because males are 64 percent more likely to use a violent method, according to the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The investigators also found that 83 percent of the people admitted for suicide attempts appeared to have mental disorders.
The study was published recently in the journal Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences.
For details about suicide prevention, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.