According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 33,300 Americans commit suicide every year. For every suicide that is completed, NIMH estimates an additional 12 to 25 people attempt to commit suicide. Depression and suicide are closely connected; suicide thoughts and attempts are symptoms of severe depression.

Depression and Suicide

While not everyone who commits suicide is depressed, symptoms of depression greatly increase the risk of suicide. NIMH reports that up to 90 percent of all suicides are related to depression, substance abuse or other mental disorders.

Other factors that may cause people to commit suicide include:

  • Exposure to suicidal behavior in others
  • Family history of mental disorders, substance abuse or suicide
  • History of incarceration
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Presence of firearms in the home
  • Previous attempts to commit suicide.

While women are more likely to attempt suicide than men, the number of men who successfully commit suicide is much higher. NIMH reports that suicide is the sixteenth-leading cause of death in women, and for men, suicide ranks as the seventh-leading cause of death. The use of firearms is the most common suicide method in the United states, followed by suffocation and poisoning.

While popular culture associates suicide with teenagers and young adults, the highest rate of suicides is among non-Hispanic white males over the age of 85, with 48 suicides for every 100,000 men in this age group.

Symptoms of Depression

Because depression and suicide are so closely linked, it is very important that symptoms of depression be identified early in the disease–the sooner treatment starts, the less likely the risk of suicide thoughts or actual attempts.

Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Changes to appetite and/or sleep patterns
  • Crying spells for no reason
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Feelings of sadness, guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Indecisiveness
  • Irritability or anger
  • Loss of interest in activities usually found enjoyable
  • Loss of libido (sex drive)
  • Memory problems
  • Suicide thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
  • Vague physical symptoms (headaches, backaches, etc).

Suicide Prevention

Suicidal behavior should always be taken seriously. If someone you know has expressed a desire to commit suicide, listen and talk to him, and encourage him to get help. A person who may commit suicide should not be left alone. Make sure that the individual cannot access any method of committing suicide, including firearms and medication. Take the individual to the nearest emergency room, or call 911.


American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Staff. (2010). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website: Click HERE.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Depression (major depression). Retrieved May 15, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: Click HERE.

National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (2009). Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and prevention. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health website: Click HERE.

Torpy, J. (2005). Suicide. Retrieved May 15, 2010, from the Journal of the American Medical Association website: Click HERE.