2021 CDC Suicide Death Data Intensifies the Call for Continued Suicide Prevention Efforts
February 10, 2023 – 6 min read
NEW YORK (February 10, 2023) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today released data on suicide deaths for the year 2021. According to the new data, suicide deaths in the United States increased from 45,979 to 48,183 (4.79%) between the years 2020 and 2021 with the age-adjusted suicide rate for 2021 at 14.1 per 100,000 people.
This year’s report looks at age, race and ethnicity related trends between 2018 and 2021 which point to disparities in trends between non-Hispanic Whites and other racial and ethnic groups. Between 2018 and 2021, increases in age-adjusted suicide rates were highest amongst Native Americans (26%), with Blacks (19.2%) and Hispanics (6.8%) also evidencing significant increases. Over this period from 2018 to 2021, suicide rates for Whites declined by 3.9%, however, they increased between 2020 and 2021 from 16.9 to 17.4 per 100,000 people. By race/ethnicity, the highest number of suicide deaths in 2021 were within the White population (36,681). Among the various age groups, a significant increase occurred for 25-44 year-olds (5% increase from 2018 to 2021), while the rate decreased by 12.4% for 45-64-year-olds (the age group that has traditionally contributed the most to the overall number of suicides). Increases for 25-44 year-olds were also seen for Native Americans and Hispanics; however, for Black people, the largest increase (36.6%) was seen in people aged 10-24.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, released the following statement regarding the CDC’s data:
At AFSP, we are saddened and disappointed by the increase in suicide deaths and rates – even one death from suicide is one too many. The new data from the CDC strengthens our drive to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide through advancing scientific research, educating the public about mental health and suicide prevention, and advocating for public policies that support more scalable and customized prevention strategies. We are seeing a wave of change in our society that destigmatizes openly talking about and seeking help to prevent suicide and this is giving people more confidence to take action to protect their own and others’ mental health and well-being.
With the data showing increases in suicide rates amongst Native American, Black, and Hispanic people, we see how structural racism and social and health inequities – among other factors – may be negatively impacting the mental health and suicide risk of historically marginalized communities. AFSP is committed to developing and providing effective, widely-accessible and culturally informed prevention education efforts in partnership with peer organizations that have expertise in these communities – like Soul Shop for Black Churches™ and Talk Saves Lives™ (TSL): An Introduction to Suicide Prevention for Latinx and Hispanic Communities – in order for these important communities to receive culturally appropriate education and support. We continue to prioritize and invest in research on suicide prevention among diverse and under-represented racial groups.
This newly released CDC report is an important reminder that suicide is complex, we all have a continued role to play in preventing this fatal health outcome, and we are still learning through research what factors contribute to suicide to inform prevention.
If you are planning to write about these data, share them on social media or share them within your local or personal community, it's crucial to communicate these three contextual considerations:
Evidence-based suicide prevention strategies exist and need to be scaled and customized: Since there are a myriad of factors that can contribute to suicide, it requires multiple prevention strategies that are both scalable and customizable. These efforts are at the heart of AFSP’s work and research.
Public education and greater awareness about suicide and prevention reduces suicide deaths. In order to reduce suicidal behavior at the population level, we stand to reach more people by increasing and scaling universal suicide prevention education and interventions in schools, workplaces, and in healthcare across America.
With data showing suicide increases for people of color and young adults, it’s important to develop and provide customized, widely accessible, and culturally-informed prevention and treatment efforts.
There is hope. People are seeking connection, support, and treatment. As we grapple with uncertainty about what lies ahead, we know that with sustained prevention education efforts and advocacy there is much reason for hope. There has been a cultural shift towards prioritizing mental health in our society, possibly spurred on by the pandemic. People are reaching out for help more than ever before. We see this in increases in emergency department visits, greater demand for mental health professionals and calls to 988 since the new number was created. Our latest Harris Poll tells us more people are prioritizing their mental health, engaging in self care, and aware of the importance of helping themselves and others when experiencing mental health distress.
Help is available. Our recent Harris Poll found that more than half of respondents (56%) said not knowing HOW to get help prevents people with suicidal ideation from seeking help. This encourages us to continue educating people on the resources available to prevent suicide. AFSP has a number of ways to reach out to someone you are worried about including AFSP's #RealConvo, Find Help, and AFSP’s Healing Conversations.
We encourage sharing the following guidance with the public and build on this moment of heightened attention to preventing suicide:
If you are concerned that you or someone you know might be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, prioritize mental health. There are things you can do that help. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suggests these steps:
Learn the signs of someone who may be at risk for suicide. Often there are changes in behavior such as mood swings, angry outbursts, or loss of interest in activities they love.
Reach out to someone who you think may be struggling. Trust your gut if you are concerned. Ask directly if they have thoughts of ending their life – research shows this is helpful and does not put the thought in their mind.
At AFSP, in partnership with our peer organizations, we remain dedicated to taking action against this leading cause of death through efforts like:
Raising awareness and engaging state and federal policymakers to reimagine mental health crisis response in our country and using 988 as just the first step towards establishing a continuum of care. 988 will continue to encourage help-seeking for those who may be struggling with their mental health or have a loved one who is in need of mental health care.
Continuing our work towards reducing the annual suicide rate by 20% by the year 2025 through Project 2025. By partnering with organizations to embrace stronger evidence-based suicide prevention practices in critical settings like healthcare systems, emergency departments, corrections systems and within the firearms owning community, we can have a dramatic impact on saving lives.
As we continue to see racial disparities in suicide rates, its crucial that we offer culturally relevant suicide prevention education and accessibility to mental health resources for everyone in our communities. AFSP has participated in and spearheaded a number of initiatives to support this goal, including Seize the Awkward, Talk Saves Lives™ (TSL): An Introduction to Suicide Prevention for Latinx and Hispanic Communities and Soul Shop for Black Churches™.
Demanding more accessible and affordable mental health care including well-trained professionals. We all should have easy access to culturally appropriate and effective mental health assessment and treatment on a regular, ongoing basis. This kind of care can save lives, if affordable and accessible to individuals at risk. AFSP supports efforts to ensure that individuals receive the same insurance coverage for their mental health as their physical health, also known as “mental health parity.”
The newly released data informs us that we have much to do to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It’s time to engage in a national effort to prevent suicide.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states including Puerto Rico, with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Media Contact: Kate Cammell, PR Manager, (212) 363-3500 ext. 3006, [email protected]