The Need to be Knowledgeable and Prepared

Regardless of where you work as a counselor, you are likely to provide services to someone who, at minimum, is expressing suicidal thoughts.


The following are statistics related to suicide in the United States
  • More people die from suicide than from homicide. In 2000, there were 1.7 times as many suicides as homicides
  • Suicide took the lives of 29,350 Americans in 2000
  • Overall, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death for all Americans (it has been as high as the 9th leading cause)
  • Males are more than 4 times likely to die from suicide than are females. However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than are males
  • In 1999, white males accounted for 72% of all suicides. Together, white males and white females accounted for over 90% of all suicides. However, during the period from 1979-1992, suicide rates for Native Americans (including American Indians and Alaska natives) were about 1.5 times the national rates. From 1980-1996, the rate of suicide increased 105% for African-American males aged 15-19.
  • 57% of suicides in 2000 were committed with a firearm
  • Suicide rates increase with age and are highest among Americans aged 65 years and older.
  • Persons under age 25 accounted for 15% of all suicides in 2000. From 1952-1995, the incidence of suicide among adolescents and young adults nearly tripled.
  • For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. In 1999, more teenagers and young adults died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke and chronic lung disease combined
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at

Regarding suicide attempts the following are estimates:
  • 775,000 suicide and 30,900 completions in the US each year (average over last 10 years)
  • 5 million living Americans have attempted to kill themselves
  • Most people who complete suicide have attempted 4 times
  • There are an estimated 8-25 attempted suicides to one completion; the ratio is higher in women and youth and lower in men and elderly

Suicide Myths

In addition to the prevalence of suicide attempts and suicide deaths, another reason to undergo study and training in suicidology as a counselor is to be able to differentiate from fact and common myths regarding suicide. “In fact, the argument has been made that dispelling myths about suicide is the single most important step in the societal prevention of suicide.” (Brems, 2000, p. 162).

Click on each myth to find the evidence that disputes it. (See Brems, 2000)

10 Commonalities of Suicide

1) The common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution
2) The common goal of suicide is cessation of consciousness
3) The common stimulus in suicide is intolerable pain
4) The common stressor in suicide is frustrated psychological needs
5) The common emotion in suicide is hopelessness-helplessness
6) The common cognitive state in suicide is ambivalence
7) The common perceptual state in suicide is constriction
8) The common action in suicide is egression
9) The common interpersonal act in suicide is communication of intention
10) The common consistency in suicide is with lifelong coping patterns