Suicide remains the tenth leading cause of death and the rate of suicide in 2017 increased by 3.7 percent, according to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Thursday.

In 2016, the last year the CDC released mortality data, there were 44,965 self-inflicted deaths; in 2017 there were 47,173: an increase of 2,208 additional deaths, according to the new CDC data.

Dr. Christine Moutier, the Chief Medical Officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, released the following statement about the new CDC data:

“This increase in the suicide rate is extremely discouraging. Until we scale up intervention efforts at the community, state and national levels, we will likely continue to see an increase in suicides in the United States. We must address (this) as a public health issue, as we do with other leading causes of death such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. (Killing oneself) is preventable. As a nation, we must take action by making a major investment in suicide research, translating that research into treatment and early interventions for mental health, and further educating the public on the warning signs of suicide.”

At AFSP, we are dedicated to reversing this rising trend in suicide mortality, and we need others to join us in this national effort, Moutier said.

“As the nation’s largest private funder of prevention research, we know through concentrated efforts that have been shown to reduce risk, successful outcomes are possible. We have developed and invested in Project 2025, a high-impact, collaborative initiative, aimed at the organization’s bold goal of reducing the nation’s annual suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.”

Based on the evidence, AFSP has identified four critical areas to help reach this unprecedented goal, including: (1) firearms and suicide prevention, (2) large healthcare systems, (3) emergency departments, and (4) corrections systems.

Project 2025 will span across all demographic and key higher risk groups to save thousands of lives within the next decade.

There are five main reasons the rate is rising, according to Moutier, and until we address these, we won’t see a reduction in the suicide rate:

  • Cultural attitudes about help seeking need to improve, as does our ability to have caring, informed conversations to proactively optimize resilience and mental health. (In vast majority of cases, research shows that 90 percent of the time when someone dies by suicide, they have a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.)
  • People must be able to access affordable, comprehensive health care, including mental health care that specifically addresses suicide prevention.
  • Training for primary care physicians and other providers in how to better screen for mental health and suicide risk; and mental health clinicians in how to detect risk and provide lifesaving treatment.
  • We must reduce access to lethal means at a population level – specifically, reducing access to lethal means such as firearms and toxic substances by those at risk, which has been proven to reduce suicide rates.
  • We need more accurate data collection of suicides and suicide attempts. This past year the National Violent Death Reporting System was expanded to all 50 states, which was the next critical step in gathering accurate national information about suicide.

“As a nation, we need to significantly increase our investment in the science, education and advocacy in order to expand effective suicide prevention efforts,” Moutier said. “The lives of millions of Americans depend on it.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by someone taking his or her own life.