World Suicide Prevention Day: 47,000 lives lost each year to suicide in the US

World Today

In this Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. With suicides on the rise, the government wants to make the national crisis hotline easier to reach. Once implemented, people will just need to dial 988 to seek help. Currently, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline uses a 10-digit number, 800-273-TALK (8255). Callers are routed to one of 163 crisis centers, where counselors answered 2.2 million calls last year. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

Nearly 800,000 people die every year from suicide around the world, and for every death, there are multiple attempts, according to the World Health Organization.

One country that has seen rates spiking year after year is the United States.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, CGTN’s Liling Tan goes beyond the numbers in this public health crisis, to speak with people who have survived it and those working to prevent it.

36-year-old Dese’Rae Stage is a photographer, a mother of two… and a suicide attempt survivor. At 17 years old, she tried to end her life, and again at 23.

“I started struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts when I was about 14 years-old as a teenager. The transition to high school was hard on me. I started questioning my sexuality, that was hard on me. And I felt really alone,” said Stage. “I was in an abusive relationship, all kinds of things had just come together to make life feel really untenable.”

Since her last attempt, Stage has turned her life around thanks to a strong support network and a personal and groundbreaking project that has helped her and other suicide attempt survivors.

“I started the project because something was missing. The stories of attempt survivors were missing, and I felt I couldn’t be the only one,” said Stage.

“Live Through This” is a series of portraits and stories of recovery. It connects survivors with each other, and serves as a resource for educators, clinicians and therapists.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the American Association of Suicidology said that amounts to about 47,000 lives lost each year to suicide. That’s 129 suicides every day, or one every 11 minutes.

Colleen Creighton is executive director of the American Association of Suicidology that represents crisis centers across the US.

“The spikes are across the board. Too high for every single demographic. So it’s not just a veteran issue. It’s not just a male issue. There are females. Females attempt more often than males, males are more successful in their completions of suicide, so it’s something that we’re just concerned about across the board,” she said.

Suicide prevention specialist Richard Shadick, who heads the Counseling Center at New York City’s Pace University, said it is always important to seek professional help.

“Treatment works. Our problem is not the treatment is not effective. When individuals do seek out treatment, there’s an 80-90 percent improvement rate and a huge drop in the number of suicide deaths when someone is in treatment,” said Shadick. “What tend to be more problematic is individuals who don’t seek treatment and the majority of individuals that kill themselves are not in treatment at the time.”

Experts said someone at risk of suicide can also be helped by others simply reaching out to start a conversation.

Additional strategies include cutting back on cellphone use in favor of social interactions, removing or restricting potential means to suicide, and anticipating potential crises because this can be a constant struggle.