9.4 Million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in 2014

2.7 million adults made suicide plans and 1.1 million made nonfatal suicide attempts
Thursday, September 10, 2015

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that in 2014, 3.9 percent of American adults aged 18 and older thought seriously about killing themselves during the past 12 months. During this same period, 1.1 percent of adults made suicide plans, and 0.5 percent of adults made non-fatal attempts at suicide.   

Adults with substance use disorders or major depressive episodes had higher rates of serious suicide thought and behaviors.

More than 40,000 people in the United States die from suicide annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – making suicide the 10th leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 54.

The SAMHSA report shows that the percentage of adults who had serious thoughts of attempting suicide over the past 12 months has remained relatively stable since SAMHSA started tracking this issue in 2008.

About one third of adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year also made suicide plans. One in nine adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year made a non-lethal suicide attempt.  All of these levels have also remained consistent since SAMHSA started monitoring these issues in 2008.

The report shows some differences in the levels of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among certain groups. For example, 11.9 percent of adults with a substance use disorder in the past 12 months had serious thoughts of suicide, 3.9 percent of these adults made suicide plans and 2.1 percent of these adults made non-fatal attempts at suicide.

Similarly, rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors were higher among adults who experienced a major depressive episode in the past 12 months. Nearly one third of these adults (29.5 percent) have serious thoughts of suicide, 9.7 percent made suicide plans and 3.4 percent made non-fatal attempts at suicide.

The report also shows that only about half (51.4 percent) of adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past 12 month had received mental health services.

“We can help prevent suicide through effective, science-based services,” said Acting SAMHSA Administrator Kana Enomoto.  “There are programs in place to save lives and help people out of their despair and toward a brighter future. By reaching out to people contemplating suicide -- everyone – family, friends, teachers, faith community leaders, co-workers, healthcare providers -- can make a positive difference.”

The following warning signs can be used to determine if you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide: 

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

SAMHSA has developed the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (Lifeline) to provide immediate help to people in crisis. The Lifeline is a nationwide network of crisis centers that provides help 24 hours a day, seven days a week for individuals in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.  People who are in crisis or are concerned about someone else in crisis can call the Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) and be rapidly connected to the nearest crisis center to receive help.  Individuals can also get help online at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/) and clicking the “Click to Chat” button. The Lifeline can also be contacted via TTY for the deaf and hearing impaired by dialing (800)-799-4889.

There are many other resources available to people needing suicide prevention and other mental health services and to those who want to help. For more information about suicide and what you can do to prevent suicide, go to SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org) and click on Suicide Prevention Basics. SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Locator (findtreatment.samhsa.gov) is a ready source of information on a wide array of mental health programs throughout the nation.

SAMHSA also works with other agencies and mental health groups to promote specialized mental health and suicide prevention services geared to community, college, tribal, workplace, and other settings.

The report, Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Adults, is based on SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, an annual national survey of 67,500 Americans aged 12 and older.  For a copy of the full report go to: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR2-2014/NSDUH-FRR2-2014.pdf

For more information, contact the SAMHSA Press Office at 240-276-2130.


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

Last Updated: 09/10/2015