Depression & Suicide—Learn

 Depression Facts

Depression is a serious medical illness and an important public health issue. Globally an estimated 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.1 Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2017 (most recent statistics available), around 17.3 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year. This number represented 7.1% of U.S. adults. Depression is characterized by persistent sadness and sometimes irritability (particularly in children).  Depression can cause suffering for depressed individuals and can also have negative effects on their families. It can occur at any time over a person’s life. Click here for a link to Depression in Children and Adolescents. 2 As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.3 Approximately one out of six adults will have depression at some point in their lifetime. Depression affects about 16 million American adults every year.  Anyone can get depressed. In fact, depression can happen at any age and in any person. Many people who experience depression also have other mental health conditions.4 For example, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. However, it should be noted they are different disorders with no evidence one disorder causes the other. 5

Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day.  When a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal functioning, you may be depressed.6


activity-1807474_640Types of Depression

To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must last for at least two weeks. Some forms of depression are slightly different, and they may develop under unique circumstances.

Click on the following links to learn more about different types of depression: Types of depression as provided by the National Institute of Mental Health.7 Types of depression as provided by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).8


Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Just like with any mental health condition, people with depression or who are going through a depressive episode (also known as major or clinical depression) experience symptoms differently. Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some experience only a few symptoms, while others experience many.  Listed below are common symptoms:

  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of interest
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness
  • Changes in movement
  • Physical aches and pains 9

In addition to the symptoms set forth above, the National Institute of Mental Health also lists the following symptoms for depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment10


A woman leaning her head on her friend's shoulder. Shown to promote compassion and support between friends.

Lean on Others When You Need Support


Causes of Depression

Depression does not have a single cause. It can be triggered, or it may occur spontaneously without being associated with a life crisis, physical illness, or another risk. Scientists believe many factors contribute to depression. Click on the following link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website for more detail on each of the possible causes listed below.

  • Trauma
  • Genetics
  • Life Circumstances
  • Brain Structure
  • Other Medical Conditions
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse11


Suicide Facts

Close to 800,000 people worldwide die each year to suicide.12 Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for Americans overall. Each year more than 39,000 Americans end their own lives, nearly 500,000 are treated in U.S. emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries, and one million adults report making a suicide attempt. Many more struggle with thoughts of suicide.13 As of 2020, the most current data about suicide available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is from 2018 (see chart below). In 2018, 48,344 people in the U.S. died by suicide, and it was the second leading cause of death (first was unintentional injury) for three age groups: ages 10-14, ages 15-24 and ages 25-34. The breakdown was: for ages 10-14, there were 596 kids who died by suicide (206 females and 390 males). For ages 15-24, 6,211 people died by suicide (1,222 females, 4,989 males). For ages 25-34, 8,020 died by suicide (1,670 females and 6,350 males). Suicide was the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-44 and 45-54. 14 For more comprehensive data, go to the CDC’s website’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)

2018 Stats from CDC for 10 Leading Causes of Death in US to educate readers

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control) published research in June 2018 which found that suicide rates increased by 25% across the U.S. over nearly two decades ending in 2016. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%.  Further, more than half of the people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.15

Death from youth suicides is only part of the problem. More young people survive suicide attempts than die. A nationwide survey of youth in grades 9-12 in public and private schools in the United States (U.S.) found that 17.7% of students reported seriously considering suicide, 14.6% reported creating a plan, and 8.6% reported trying to take their own life within the 12 months preceding the survey. Each year approximately 157,000 youth between the ages of 10-24 receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries at Emergency Departments across the U.S.16


Warning Signs of Suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • Feeling unbearable pain (emotional and physical)
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Using alcohol or drugs more often
  • Acting anxious or agitated
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy17 18
  • Talking about great guilt or shame
  • Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
  • Taking significant risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • Talking or thinking about death often
  • Giving away important possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Putting affairs in order, making a will19


Risk Factors of Suicide

Risk factors are often confused with warning signs of suicide, and frequently suicide prevention materials mix the two into lists of “what to watch for.” However, factors identified as increasing risk are not factors that cause or predict a suicide attempt. Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt, or die by suicide.

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illness
  • Previous suicide attempt(s)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship(s)
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicides
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • The stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and internet)20
  • Chronic pain
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
  • Family violence including physical or sexual abuse
  • Having guns or firearms in the home
  • Having been released recently from prison or jail21

Many people have some of these risk factors but do not attempt suicide. Suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.22 Even if a person states they are not suicidal when asked, but are exhibiting many of the above warning signs, get help immediately.


Myths about Suicide

Myth: Only white males die by suicide

Fact: While some demographic factors contribute to a higher risk of suicide, it is important to remember that suicide does not discriminate. Individuals of all genders, races, ethnicities, upbringings, and socio-economic statuses kill themselves. Pay attention to what the person says and does, not what he/she looks like or how you believe that person should think, feel, or act.

Myth: Suicidal teens overreact to life events

Fact: Problems that may not seem like a big deal to one person, particularly adults, may be causing a great deal of distress for the suicidal teen. We have to remember that perceived crises are just as concerning and predictive of suicidal behavior as actual crises.

Myth: Suicide is an act of aggression, anger, or revenge

Fact: Most people who kill themselves do so because they feel they do not belong or are a burden to others. They think that their death will free their loved ones of this burden. Many suicides occur in ways and in places that the person hopes will ease the shock and grief of those they left behind.

Myth: Suicide happens without warning

Fact: Most teens who attempt or die by suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person. These communications are not always direct, so it is essential to know some of the key warning signs of suicide.

Myth: Talking to teens about suicide makes them likely to kill themselves

Fact: Talking about suicide with teens gives them an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about something they may have been keeping secret. Research demonstrates there are no iatrogenic effects of asking teens about suicide (Gould et al., 2005). Discussion brings it into the open and allows an opportunity for intervention. Therefore, youth who come forward to caring adults following a presentation on suicide is most likely the result of providing that youth, who was already suicidal, the freedom to confide their pain to others. Only then will the healing begin.23



September 10th each year is World Suicide Prevention Day.  This day is observed annually to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicide with various activities throughout the world. The International Association of Suicide (IASP) collaborates with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health to host World Suicide Prevention Day. Take a minute now and read all five categories set forth below and consider completing them by September 10th this year:

  1. Learn the Signs
  2. Know How to Help
  3. Practice Self-Care
  4. Reach Out
  5. Spread the Word

Go to Take 5 to Save Lives for further information on how you can complete each of the five categories listed above! Someone’s life may depend on it.

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Retrieved from
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved from
  3. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Retrieved from
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved from
  5. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Retrieved from
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). Retrieved from
  7. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  8. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved from
  9. National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI). Retrieved from
  10. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  11. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Retrieved from
  12. World Health Organization (WHO). Retrieved from
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved from and https:// Last updated August 2016.
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved from
  15. Stone DM, Simon TR, Fowler KA, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates-United States, 1999-2016 and Circumstances Contributing to Suicide – 27 States, 2015, MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:617-624. DOI:
  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Available at: Accessed on April 20, 2017
  17. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  18. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Retrieved from
  19. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  20. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Retrieved from
  21. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  22. The National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from
  23. American Association of Suicidology (AAS). Retrieved from