9.8 Million American adults had serious thoughts of suicide in 2015

2.7 million adults made suicide plans and 1.4 million made nonfatal suicide attempts
Thursday, September 15, 2016

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that in 2015, four percent of American adults aged 18 and older thought seriously about killing themselves during the past 12 months from when they were surveyed. During this same period, 1.1 percent of adults made suicide plans, and 0.6 percent of adults made non-fatal attempts at suicide.

More than 42,000 people in the United States die from suicide annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – making suicide the tenth leading cause of death overall. The rates for completed suicide remain at historically high levels with a 27 percent increase since 2000.

The Administration is seeking $88 million in fiscal year 2017 funding for SAMHSA efforts to prevent suicide in all segments of the community.

The SAMHSA report shows that the overall percentage of adults who had serious thoughts of attempting suicide has remained stable in most years since SAMHSA started tracking this in 2008. However, the report shows an increase in serious thoughts of suicide among young adults (aged 18 to 25) from 2014 to 2015 of 7.5 percent in 2014 to 8.3 percent in 2015.

The report also shows a significant increase from 2014 to 2015 in the rate of nonfatal suicide attempts among young adult females – up from 1.5 percent in 2014 to 2 percent in 2015.

About one fourth of adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year made suicide plans. One in seven adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past year made a nonfatal suicide attempt, according to the report. All of these levels have also remained roughly consistent since SAMHSA started monitoring these demographics in 2008.

“We must continue to raise awareness that suicide is preventable, and provide effective, science-based services to everyone who needs it,” said SAMHSA Principal Deputy Administrator Kana Enomoto. “SAMHSA and others have programs in place to save lives and lead people toward a brighter future. Everyone – family, friends, teachers, faith community leaders, co-workers, healthcare providers – can save a life by reaching out to someone in crisis and assisting them in getting the help they need.”

The report shows some differences in the levels of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among certain groups. Young adults had significantly higher levels of serious suicidal thoughts compared to any other age group -- twice as high, for example, as people aged 40 to 54 (8.3 percent versus 3.5 percent respectively). Those aged 65 and older had a significantly lower level of suicidal thought in the past year of 1.8 percent.

People who drank alcohol and used illicit drugs in the past year had significantly higher levels of suicidal thoughts, making suicidal plans, and making nonfatal suicide attempts than the general adult population. For example, 9.8 percent of past year alcohol and illicit drug users had serious suicidal thoughts compared to 4 percent of all adults.

Users of certain types of illicit drugs in the past year were more likely to have suicidal thoughts and behavior. For example, people using methamphetamines in the past year were much more likely to have serious suicidal thoughts (21.6 percent versus 4 percent); to have made suicide plans (7.2 percent versus 1.1 percent); and to have made nonfatal suicide attempts (4.3 percent versus 0.6 percent) than the general adult population.

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 (28.6 percent) have serious thoughts of suicide, 9.9 percent made suicide plans, and 4.2 percent made nonfatal suicide attempts.

The report also shows that only about half (49 percent) of adults who had serious thoughts of suicide in the past 12 months received mental health services. People who made nonfatal suicide attempts had a higher rate of mental health treatment at 60.4 percent.

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 or behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to help promote awareness and resources around the issues of suicide prevention. SAMHSA 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 and get 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 in need of 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, Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, is available at:

http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DR-FFR3-2015/NSDUH-DR-FFR3-2015.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: 09/15/2016