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SAMHSA News - September/October 2006, Volume 14, Number 5

Depression, Substance Abuse: Significant Risk Factors for Suicide

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgSuicide is the 11th leading cause of death among adults and is considered a major public health problem. But those who die from suicide represent only a fraction of those who consider or attempt suicide, according to a new Office of Applied Studies report from SAMHSA.

For those with a major depressive episode (MDE) who also engaged in alcohol or drug abuse, the likelihood of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts is even greater.

According to the new short report from SAMHSA, Suicidal Thoughts, Suicide Attempts, Major Depressive Episode, and Substance Use among Adults, 10.4 percent (1.7 million people) of adults age 18 or older who experienced an MDE made a suicide attempt, 14.5 percent (2.4 million people) made a suicide plan, 40.3 percent (6.6 million people) thought about committing suicide, and 56.3 percent (9.2 million people) thought that it would be better if they were dead.

When alcohol abuse—particularly binge drinking or the use of illicit drugs—is added to an MDE, the proportion of suicide attempts rises to nearly 14 percent for alcohol abuse and nearly 20 percent for illicit drug use.

“These new findings show the scope of the problem and underscore the importance of suicide prevention efforts,” said Assistant Surgeon General Eric B. Broderick, D.D.S., M.P.H., SAMHSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator. “For people in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK offers immediate assistance.”

The report also found that, in 2004, an estimated 106,000 visits to emergency departments were attributable to suicide attempts. A mental disorder was diagnosed in 41 percent of the drug-related suicide attempts treated in emergency rooms; the foremost of these disorders was depression.

These data were released during Suicide Prevention Week 2006—September 10 to September 16. The report is available for free download on SAMHSA’s Web site at http://oas.samhsa.gov/

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Action Alliance

To further support suicide prevention efforts, SAMHSA recently announced that the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN USA), a national suicide prevention organization, will join with the Agency to establish and administer the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

The Action Alliance, a public-private partnership, will reframe the goals and objectives of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention from paper to practice. Measurable actions will be generated for Government, industry, general and specialty health care sectors, academia, communities, and consumers and families.

The creation of this Action Alliance was one of the key recommendations of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (2001), the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003), and the Federal Mental Health Action Agenda (2005), a recommendation echoed by Congress in 2005.

In addition, SAMHSA recently announced the award of 46 grants totaling $25.7 million to support other activities, including grants funded under the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act for youth suicide prevention. The grants support initiatives by states and on college campuses to prevent suicide and to enhance services for youth depression, other mental health problems, and substance abuse, which put young people at risk for suicide. (See grant and press release.) End of Article

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SAMHSA News Information

SAMHSA News - September/October 2006, Volume 14, Number 5