Rev. Kevin Wayne Johnson serves on the Governor’s Commission for Suicide Prevention.

By Rev. Kevin Wayne Johnson

Suicide prevention is a subject that needs attention. Suicide is directly linked to depression and mental illness. It ranks as one of our nation’s top 10 societal ills. Many, many men, women, boys and girls are caught in the “me” generation and the steady advancements in technology contribute to behaviors that are detrimental to self. With so much attention afforded to directing attention to ourselves, many across the country have lost focus on the importance of serving others and lifting up those within our sphere of influence. In doing so, Americans spend countless hours evaluating our own self awareness, or lack thereof, do not feel that we meet the standard that we see in others, leading to inadequacy and then wanting to end our lives. It’s a troubling trend, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past 19 months, calls into the National Suicide Prevention Hotline increased by 1,000%. In the USA alone, here are some startling statistics: 

– Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages. (CDC)

– Every day, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide. (CDC)

– There is one death by suicide in the US every 12 minutes. (CDC)

– Depression affects 20-25% of Americans ages 18+ in a given year. (CDC)

– Suicide takes the lives of over 44,965 Americans every year. (CDC)

– The highest suicide rates in the US are among Whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives.

– Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment. (NAMI)

– 80% -90% of people that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication. (TADS study)

– An estimated quarter million people each year become suicide survivors (AAS).

– There is one suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts. (CDC)

– There is one suicide for every estimated 4 suicide attempts in the elderly. (CDC)

Sources: Center for Disease Control (CDC); American Association for Suicide (AA); National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI)

Globally, the data is just as dire. The seven-plus billion people around the world are equally impacted and the need to heighten the level of awareness continues. For example:

– Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds.

– Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-24 years.

– Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Other important statistics that the Commission monitors include the following:

Age Disparities: 

– 1 in 100,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)

– 7 in 100,000 youth ages 15 to 19 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)

– 12.7 in 100,000 young adults ages 20-24 die by suicide each year. (NIMH)

– The prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicidal planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults aged 30+. (CDC)

– Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. (CDC)

– Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for adults ages 18-65. (CDC)

– The highest increase in suicide is in males 50+ (30 per 100,000). (CDC)

– Suicide rates for females are highest among those aged 45-54 (9 per 100,000). (CDC)

– Suicide rates for males are highest among those aged 75+ (36 per 100,000). (CDC)

– Suicide rates among the elderly are highest for those who are divorced or widowed. (SMH)

Gender Disparities:

– Suicide among males is 4x’s higher than among females. Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides. (CDC)

– Firearms are the most commonly used method of suicide among males (51%). (CDC)

– Females are more likely than males to have had suicidal thoughts. (CDC)

– Females experience depression at roughly 2x’s the rate of men.(SMH)

– Females attempt suicide 3x’s as often as males. (CDC)

– Poisoning is the most common method of suicide for females. (CDC)

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

– Lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are 3x more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

– Medically serious attempts at suicide are 4x more likely among LGBTQ youth than other young people.

– African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual attempt suicide at especially high rates.

– 41% of trans adults said they had attempted suicide, in one study. The same study found that – – 61% of trans people who were victims of physical assault had attempted suicide.

– Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people who come from families that reject or do not accept them are over 8x more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.

– Each time an LGBTQ person is a victim of physical or verbal harassment or abuse, they become 2.5x more likely to hurt themselves.

All Maryland residents are encouraged to get involved and help us to save information, attend seminars, participate in forums and listen in to the Commission’s bi-monthly meetings as the general public is invited. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK.

Rev. Kevin Wayne Johnson is in year two of a  four year term on the Governor’s Commission for Suicide Prevention. The Commission meets bi-monthly to discuss issues and concerns across the 23 counties of our state that directly impact the state’s citizens. The Commission reports to the Department of Health and the Governor for accountability and relevance. The author is available for panel discussions, workshops and keynotes and can be reached at (410) 340-8633 or

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