The national suicide rate for has climbed to a 30-year-high, according to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
During a 15-year-period, the rate of Americans taking their own lives increased by almost a quarter.
The CDC study found that the rate climbed by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. The 2014 rate was 13 people for every 100,000 population, according to the age adjusted rate, which is the highest rate since 1986. The age adjustment, also called age standardization, is a technique used to allow populations to be compared when the age profiles of the populations are quite different.
Kentucky’s 2014 rate was even higher: 15.1. In total, there were 691 suicides in the state in 2014, according to a study done by the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in collaboration with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center.
Kentuckians ages 55-64 saw a big increase from 2005 to 2014; the number of suicides among that age group doubled from 66 in 2005 to 134 in 2014. But those ages 45-54 completed suicide most often.
In Kentucky, the primary means of completed suicide was with the use of a firearm, but the most common mechanism of self-injury among those hospitalized was poisoning.
Laurel County’s rate falls near the middle of the state. It’s 50th in the 120 Kentucky counties, with a rate of 15.66. The highest rate in the state was in Carlisle County in western Kentucky, at 28.46 percent. The lowest was Mason County in northeastern Kentucky at 8.33, according to data from the CDC.
Though the national research shows that females attempt suicide more often than males, males complete the act more often. The national age-adjusted rate for males in 2014 was three times higher than the rate for females: 20.7 versus 5.8.
But the biggest rate increase was among females. The rate of female suicides jumped by 45 percent, whereas the rate among males increased by 16 percent, narrowing the gap between the sexes.
A story in the New York Times quoted Robert D. Putman, a professor of public policy at Harvard who authored the study “Our Kids,” an investigation of new class division in America.
Putman said the increase is evidence of a group of Americans that are now in desperation.
“This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health,” Putman said.
The New York Times story noted recent research that has shown that less educated whites are suffering more and more mortality, and analysis of the suicide data show that the patterns in age and race were consistent with that research.
Nationwide, the only racial group in which the suicide rate declined was in black men.
According to the CDC, there area a number of factors that put people at a greater risk of suicide.
A person’s history can mean greater risk, including if there was a previous suicide attempt, or if the person was mistreated as a child. A family history of suicide, a history of mental disorders (particularly clinical depression), or a history of alcohol and substance abuse can all put a person at greater risk.
Feelings of hopelessness, barriers to accessing mental health treatment, a loss of a relationship or job, and physical illness are also factors that increase a person’s risk.
Anyone having suicidal thoughts should get help immediately, experts say. People can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day and get help. The number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Trained counselors are ready to help. According to the lifeline’s website, people can call whether or not they are actually thinking about taking their life. The lifeline has had calls from people needing help with substance abuse, economic worries, relationship and family problems, sexual orientation, illness, getting over abuse, depression, mental and physical illness, and even loneliness.