2022 marked a grim milestone in the United States as it recorded the highest number of suicide deaths ever, with nearly 50,000 cases. A 3% increase from the previous year, the suicide rate peaked at 14.3 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest since 1941, as per the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This reflects the toll of the nation's ongoing mental health crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and other societal changes.
Rising Suicide Rates among Adults
Particularly impacted were adults above the age of 35. The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics report indicates a significant upsurge in suicide rates among this demographic, driving the overall numbers to an all-time high. This trend contravenes the slight decrease observed among individuals under 35, with the suicide rate among children aged 10 to 14, dropping by 18% from 2021 to 2022.
Demographics and Methodology
The demographic with the highest suicide rate was the Native American and Alaska Native communities, with 26.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Notably, the suicide rate among white females also saw a significant increase. Approximately half of the suicide deaths were firearm-related, an "unprecedented" high according to the CDC, translating to about 27,000 gun-related suicides in 2022.
Decoding the Crisis
Dr. Melinda Moore, a clinical psychologist, warns that the alarming number of deaths is likely just the tip of the iceberg, as the number of people with suicidal thoughts is likely far higher. Factors contributing to this increasing trend span poor mental health, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and societal shifts such as a loss of faith and meaning. Monsignor Charles Pope echoed this sentiment, attributing the increase to a societal loss of faith, which when absent, renders suffering intolerable. The Phoenix Diocese plans to establish a Catholic mental health ministry in response to this crisis, with initiatives set to launch on World Mental Health Day.